It was a tale of two keepers in the first half, Valdes making three key saves, the best denying Osvaldo turning his shot on to the post. Dani Alves saw a second yellow card in the second half and the "Royals" tried to push on for a victory.
Barcelona dug deep and tried to carve out a victory, Messi going closest for them in the second half, but the little magician wasn't at his magical best. Both teams may look back and think what could have been after an intriguing evening in west Barcelona.
Espanyol have only lost 3 of last 16 games at the new stadium which has turned in to a little fortress for the Periquitos of the city and an early chance for Espanyol almost caught the league leaders off guard. Barcelona struggled to get the ball clear in a scramble of mistakes and loose footing. It finally dropped to Osvaldo in the box but his effort was high to the disappointment of the home crowd. What a start it could have been for the hosts.
The First booking of the game went to Osvaldo just after five minutes in true derby fashion. A horrible mistimed tackle on Busquets meant he rightly went into the book.
After ten minutes Pedro twisted and turned down the right for Barca. His cross wasn't as expected to Kameni in the Espanyol goal, as Pedro's mis-hit bounced out off the cross bar.
Barca settled in to the game quickly, playing short triangles and finding width with ease but their usual slickness of piercing through defences was not evident. Espanyol were flying into tackles and trying to unsettle their visitors, Dani Alves being one who was also given a hard time by the ever vocal fans.
After 20 minutes Verdu chased a long crossed ball over the top of the Barca defence. Alves tracked him and hauled the Espanyol wide man down, as they both fell out of play inside the area. Verdu looked to the referee who believed Alves got just enough of the ball.
Shortly after, Luis Garcia showed no signs of concerns about Barcelona's champions league game in midweek, as he clattered in to Carlos Puyol and received a booking.
In the 25th minute Chica chased down the right from the Espanyol rear guard and his whipped cross was only half cleared. It fell to Callejon who couldn't get enough on the dropping volley to test Valdes in the Barca goal. That chance was to bring a spell of pressure for the home side.
First Dani Alves went slightly unfairly into the book for a challenge on Callejon wide down the left channel. The resulting cross went over a nervous Valdes and wide of the far post. He may have had it covered but looked uneasy.
Just a minute later Valdes was almost beaten. Another testing cross in to the centre found Baena completely unmarked and his header zipped off the surface and just wide for Espanyol. Barcelona were barely surviving the wave of pressure.
Messi | Couldn't find a way through...
Milito was the next to become victim to the referee trying to get control of the game. A slightly wild tackle but not much connection was enough for the Barca centre-back to see a yellow card.
In the last ten minutes of the first half Barca began to just retain the ball with some neat passing tiring the 10 men chasing. Working the ball one way then the other created space down the left for Maxwell. He drilled his shot low from the left side of the box but the Cameroonian Kameni showed good hands in the Espanyol goal. Any kind of spill by the keeper and Xavi and others were waiting to pounce.
Espanyol were not even stopping to catch their collective breath as they pushed hard to catch Barcelona on the counter attack.
Messi had been quiet in comparison to his recent performances, but really came out of his shell cutting inside and out of two defenders wide on the left but his pull back was cut out.
Then the biggest moment of the half arrived. Callejon got down the left, in behind the Barca defence. His cross to the near post for Verdu was just too high, only able to get a faint touch. It fell for Osvaldo at the back post and he brought out a fine save from Valdes. The Barca keeper just got enough to turn the shot on to the post and out to safety. A let off for Barcelona, Osvaldo really should have found the net. At half time Valdes had kept Barcalona alive.
The second half began with Espanyol on the front foot. Verdu and Chica tried to break down Puyol, who was playing at left back tonight, but the Barcelona captain was unbeatable.
The first shot of the half for Barcelona came on the hour mark. Messi took a touch to set himself at the edge the area and trying to bend his shot with his left from outside the post to in, but not getting enough action on the ball.
Just one minute after Barca were down to ten as Dani Alves getting the wrong side on Callejon and did enough to knock him down as he turned to break. The Brazilian full back got his second yellow card and marching orders, maybe harshly, but it gave both Espanyol and Real Madrid a greater interest for the remainder of the game. Just as Guardiola had made two changes to bring Henry and Keita on in search of a goal, he had then to re shuffle the pack again.
Despite going down to ten men, Barcelona continued to press. Messi broke down the right followed by two Espanyol defenders. He turned back to his left foot as his cross was blocked by an arm. The little Argentinian jumped to the linesman for a penalty but it was waved away and probably rightly so. It would have been harsh on the home team if it had been given.
The away team continued to have the edge, but against a tenacious midfield and backline in superb form tonight, Barcelona just seemed one yard behind the every single pass when it mattered with chances few and far between. They almost created one however in the 76th minute. Henry linked up well around the box with Messi, who tried a cheeky chip to Xavi but just couldn't quite bring it down.
Ivan Alonso, not long on the pitch, found space 25 yards out from the Barca goal and had time to set himself if he had wanted to. Instead taking the half volley the first time, he fired a speculative effort high and wide.
Messi continued to torture the Espanyol defence. He got a little lucky break and burst clear of three defenders and it took a last ditch lunge from Pareja to prevent the little wizard getting in on goal.
That was to be the last real moment of a second half that couldn't live up to the expectations after a firey first. It leaves Barcelona looking over their shoulders in the La Liga with an important game against Inter on Tuesday.