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Espanyol v Barcelona Live Commentary, 17/01/2018

FT
1 - 0
ESP
BAR
Melendo (88)
RCDE Stadium

Commentary

Barcelona's unbeaten run, which stretched all the way back to the Supercopa de Espana in August, has finally come to an end. Espanyol struck late on and have managed to to come away with a rare, and well-deserved, win against their rivals. The Blaugrana looked far from their best all evening long, and they can't have too many complaints about the scoreline. They'll have to perform much better in next week's second leg if they're to avoid being knocked out.
FULL-TIME: ESPANYOL 1-0 BARCELONA
Rakitic is caught late over on the right wing and Barcelona are presented with one final chance to carve out a chance on goal. Messi steps up and unleashes a curling cross-cum-shot, but it's slightly too powerful and sails a couple of yards over the top of the crossbar. That should be that!
It's all Barcelona as they desperately try to find a way back into the game. Espanyol not only have every player behind the ball but have camped everyone on the edge of their own penalty area, and they're continuing to frustrate their local rivals, who have been far from their best tonight.
L. Suárez
Yellow Card
Barcelona
Suarez has also been shown a late yellow card for his reaction, which seemed to be the result of very little.
David López
Yellow Card
Espanyol
There's a coming together between Lopez and Suarez, with the latter looking particularly frustrated. The fracas eventually comes to an end, and the Espanyol midfielder is booked for his part in it.
The fourth official has indicated that there will be three minutes of added time. Can Barcelona find an equaliser?
Marc Navarro
Assist
Espanyol
That was a wonderful piece of play by Navarro, but, once again, Digne defended incredibly poorly when going one-on-one with the Espanyol full-back. Barcelona shot themselves in the foot with poor play when in possession.
Melendo
Goal
Espanyol
GOAL! Espanyol have taken the lead late on! Navarro breaks down the right wing after clumsy play by Barcelona, and he easily gets the better of Ligne out wide. He then cuts a lovely pass back to Melendo, who immediately sidefoots a beautiful shot past Cillessen and into the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
Víctor Sánchez
Yellow Card
Espanyol
Rafinha, who has looked decent since coming off the substitutes' bench, tries to find a way past Sanchez after breaking into the Espanyol half of the pitch. He's immediately clattered into by the former Barcelona midfielder, and the yellow card is out once again.
T. Vermaelen
Yellow Card
Barcelona
Vermaelen is brought down from behind after tangling with Baptistao, and he immediately appeals for a free-kick. Espanyol are instead awarded a throw-in, however, and the Belgian receives a booking after reacting angrily to the decision.
Great strike by Marco Navarro! The right-back unleashes a thumping shot from the free-kick that looks set to beat Cillessen, but the goalkeeper pulls off a smart save to tip the effort over the crossbar and behind for a corner. That was hit with real venom!
I. Rakitić
Yellow Card
Barcelona
Huge call by the referee! Rakitic is caught in possession just outside of the visitors' penalty area, allowing Gerard to break towards the box. The forward is hauled to the ground by Rakitic before he can get there, and the referee immediately awards a free-kick in a promising position. The Espanyol players and fans all scream for a red card for denying a goalscoring opportunity, but Rakitic is only shown a yellow.
Chance for Espanyol! A low cross from the right flank looks set to penetrate the penalty area, but it's poked behind for a corner by Vermaelen. The set-piece is fired into the heart of the box and bounces around dangerously before falling to Lopez, who manages to get a header away but can't quite beat Cillessen with his looping effort.
Messi sprints into the Espanyol box and it looks as if the offside trap has been beaten once again, but his run forward was slightly mistimed and the linesman's flag is raised before the Argentine can get a shot away.
Rafinha
Denis Suárez
Barcelona
Denis Suarez has made way for Rafinha, who comes on to make his first appearance in almost nine months.
Ouch! Cillessen goes to retrieve the ball and is caught in the face by some sort of object that was thrown by one of the Espanyol fans behind the goal. The goalkeeper initially goes down after receiving the blown but is able to get back to his feet before reacting understandably angrily to the referee, who tries to calm down the situation.
Huge interception by Pique! Digne is beaten far too easily over on the right flank, allowing Gerard to fire an excellent bouncing cross into the heart of the Barcelona box. It looks set to pick out Baptistao, but Pique is just about able to beat the striker to the ball at the near post.
Melendo
Javi Fuego
Espanyol
Fuego does indeed leave the pitch, with Oscar Melendo coming on in his place.
Fuego seems to be struggling once again after initially looking as if he had recovered. He was caught on the side of the head by a thumping attempted clearance, and he's been dazed since then. It seems as if he's going to have to make way this time.
Luis Suarez charges through the Espanyol back line and does well to latch onto a lofted pass from Rakitic. He quickly brings the ball down before firing it into the path of Messi on the edge of the box, but the linesman's flag is raised against the Uruguayan after a slight delay. That was a very close call!
Messi drops deep and heads over to the right wing as he tries carve out a decent chance for his side. He's able to make a bit of space for himself and then attempts to pick out Luis Suarez with a lofted pass, but it's poorly hit and sails behind for a goal-kick.
It's all Barcelona once again as they desperately try to find a way in front. Espanyol have almost every available body camped behind the ball, however, and they're making it very tough for their opponents.
Espanyol work the ball around nicely inside the visitors' half of the pitch and do well to win themselves a corner. It's swung into the penalty area and manages to pick out Fuego, but his headed effort isn't good enough to beat Cillessen.
The atmosphere inside the stadium is electric, with the Espanyol fans in fine voice after that penalty save. They're starting to get back into the game after a slightly slow start to the second half, and Barcelona look rattled by Messi's miss.
L. Messi
Penalty Miss
Barcelona
It wasn't the worst of penalties, and usually it would have found the back of the net, but what is proving to be a frustrating night for Messi shows no signs of ending.
Diego López
Penalty Save
Espanyol
SAVE! But they can't! Messi tries to beat Lopez to his left but is denied by a wonderful save from the goalkeeper. The Argentine looks absolutely stunned, and it's no wonder why!
PENALTY! Roberto bursts into the penalty area and is brought down by Granero, leaving the referee with no choice but to point to the spot. Barcelona have finally been presented with a great chance to take the lead...
Gerard Moreno
Yellow Card
Espanyol
Yellow card Gerard Moreno Balaguero
L. Suárez
Carles Aleñá
Barcelona
Meanwhile, Alena has made way for Luis Suarez for Barcelona.
Dídac Vilá
Aarón Martín
Espanyol
Espanyol have made another change, with Didac Vila coming on to take the place of Martin.
Barcelona are pushing forward with much more intensity now, and they're showing more desire inside the final third of the pitch. They're also now pressing with more speed, which is starting to frustrate Espanyol whenever they try to play out from the back.
Jordi Alba
Yellow Card
Barcelona
Jordi Alba isn't even on the pitch yet has managed to get himself booked. He wasn't at all happy with the decision to award a free-kick to Espanyol and made his feelings heard - much to the referee's annoyance.
Roberto is this time guilty of giving away a free-kick in a promising position, presenting Espanyol with a really good opportunity to fire a cross into the box. It's Granero who does so, but there's far too much power behind his cross and it sails behind for a goal-kick.
I. Rakitić
Paulinho
Barcelona
Barcelona have made their first alteration of the game, with Paulinho making way for Ivan Rakitic.
Roberto darts down the right flank before being hauled to the ground by Martin, resulting in a free-kick for the visitors just a yard or so outside of the penalty area. Messi's cross is a good one and eventually loops back over to the Argentine, who quickly unleashes a thumping volley but is denied by a decent save by Lopez.
After dealing with the danger, Espanyol hit Barcelona on a swift counter-attack down the left wing. Baptistao does really well to charge towards the edge of the box before firing a bouncing cross towards Gerard, but his strike partner can't quite latch onto the ball ahead of Vermaelen.
Barcelona keep pushing forward as they continue putting pressure on the hosts' back line. Messi gets himself into a great position on the edge of the box and looks set to shoot, but he holds onto the ball for slightly too long and has it poked away from him just as he's about to pull the trigger.
Vital touch by Nacho! Barcelona quickly go on the front foot and win themselves a free-kick over on the left flank. It's swung in by Messi and looks set to find Vermaelen at the far post, but Naldo is there to put off the Belgian just as he's about to test Lopez from close range.
Léo Baptistão
Darder
Espanyol
Espanyol have decided to make one substitution during the half-time break, with Leo Baptistao coming on to replace Sergi Darder.
We're underway once again!
The two teams are making their way back out on to the pitch ahead of the start of the second half.
It's been a flat and frustrating game so far, with neither side managing to carve out too many decent chances on goal. Barcelona have looked particularly sluggish, and towards the end of the first half it was they who found themselves on the back foot. Busquets and Messi went close to scoring early on, but they a vast improvement is needed if they're to find the back of the net after the break.
HALF-TIME: ESPANYOL 0-0 BARCELONA
Carles Aleñá
Yellow Card
Barcelona
Alena stretches and catches Sanchez, leaving the midfielder in a heap on the floor and resulting in a free-kick for Espanyol in a promising position. They're unable to make it count, though, as the ball is fired behind for a goal-kick after failing to pick out a team-mate in front of goal.
The fourth official has indicated that there will be just one minute of added time.
What a chance for Denis Suarez to make it 1-0! The free-kick fails to result in a chance on goal after the ball sails just past Pique, but Barcelona quickly push forward once again. Denis Suarez flies into the left-hand side of the box and latches onto a lovely pass before shooting, but he totally scuffs his effort and sails to hit the target.
Aarón Martín
Yellow Card
Espanyol
An attempted attacking move by the home side fails to come to anything, and Barcelona are finally able to attack once again. Messi cuts inside from the right wing and sprints towards the box, but he's cynically chopped down by Martin before he's able to reach it and has to settle for a free-kick out wide.
Barcelona are really struggling to get into the game, and it remains the home side who are the front foot. The visitors are sitting deep and failing to put enough pressure on their opponents, which is allowing them to calmly and comfortably hold onto the ball inside the Barcelona half of the pitch.
Espanyol keep enjoying a decent period of possession as they try to end the first half on a high, but a cross-field pass towards Aaron Martin fails to pick out the full-back over on the left flank and sails harmlessly out of play for a throw-in.
Lopez is tripped over by Vermaelen as the two battle for the ball, and Espanyol are awarded a free-kick just inside the Barcelona half of the pitch. It's fired into the box and towards Gerard, who manages to latch onto the cross but can't quite pick out a team-mate with his downward header.
Espanyol have defended well so far, and they're able to head into the final 10 minutes of the first half with the scorelines still level and both sides well in the game. They're starting to see more of the ball now, although they're struggling to get Gerard involved on the break.
Denis Suarez goes down inside the penalty area, but nothing is given! The midfielder bursts into the box and looks to shoot, but he goes down under a tackle from David Lopez before he's able to do so. The referee immediately waves away protests for a penalty and then does the same to the Espanyol players, who all ask for a yellow card for what they believe was a clear dive.
Messi does wonderfully well to shake off two Espanyol midfielders before poking a clever pass into the feet of Paulinho. The Brazilian is in plenty of space just outside of the penalty area, but he can't quite strike his effort well enough and sends it comfortably wide of the goal.
Almost a costly mistake by Sergi Roberto! A lofted pass is thumped deep into the Barcelona half of the pitch and should be dealt with by Roberto, but he completely scuffs his attempted back-pass and knocks it straight to Gerard Moreno. The forward quickly heads towards the box before shooting, and his low strike gives Jasper Cillessen a slight scare as it bounces a few yards wide of the far post.
Another opportunity for Messi! Once again, the Espanyol midfield seems to totally disappear, allowing Messi to break towards the box in an acre of space. He manages to penetrate the penalty area before eventually shooting, but he can't quite guide his strike through the sea of defenders camped in front of goal.
Pique has the ball in the back of the net, but it won't count! A Barcelona corner is sent short before a looping cross is thumped into the middle of the penalty area. Pique rises high and beats Lopez to the ball, but just as it bounces over the line off the inside of the post, the linesman's flag is correctly raised for offside.
Chance for Messi! The Espanyol midfielders all fall asleep, allowing Messi to sprint through the centre of the pitch on an incredibly dangerous run. He reaches the edge of the box and quickly shoots, but his low effort is slightly mishit and can only find the hands of Lopez.
It hasn't been Messi's night so far. Once again he's unable to lift his free-kick over the wall of blue and white shirts camped in front of him, and once again Espanyol have few problems dealing with the limited danger.
Espanyol are caught in possession once again after failing to clear the ball quickly enough, and Barcelona immediately hit them on a swift counter-attack. Messi receives the ball just outside of the penalty area and looks set to shoot, but he's fouled by Fuego and once again the Argentine is presented with an opportunity to shoot from a well-placed free-kick.
Messi steps up and shoots, but this time he's unable to get his strike over the wall and Espanyol are easily able to deal with the danger before shepherding the ball behind for a goal-kick.
Fuego is able to make his way back onto the pitch after a few moments of medical treatment, and the game gets underway once again. Victor Sanchez quickly loses the ball and allows Paulinho to burst forward, but the Brazilian is immediately fouled by a cynical sliding challenge from the Espanyol man, who gives away another free-kick in a dangerous position.
There's a slight break in play, and it looks as Fuego may have to make way. He received a thumping clearance straight to the side of the head at the start of the game and is down on the floor once again complaining of disorientation.
An attempted Espanyol attack fails to come to anything, and it's then time for Barcelona to counter quickly. They initially do well to swiftly work the ball up towards Messi, who takes on Naldo just inside the hosts' half of the pitch but can't quite get the better of the Brazilian.
Barcelona are comfortably managing to boss possession, but, bar Busquets' strike a few minutes ago, they're yet to carve out too many clear-cut chances on goal. Espanyol's back line are defending well, with the home side constantly looking to quickly counter-attack down the flanks.
A long throw-in from deep down the right wing causes a few problems for the Barcelona defenders for the first time this evening. Esteban Granero darts into the penalty area and does well to latch onto the ball in front of goal, but he can't quite control it well enough and loses out to Gerard Pique.
Great strike by Sergio Busquets! Alena twists and turns inside the hosts' penalty area as he tries to carve out a pocket of space for himself. He's unable to do so but pokes the ball back to Busquets, who quickly shoots from the edge of the box and forces Diego Lopez into making a smart diving save.
After spending the opening five minutes on the back foot, Espanyol are eventually able to push forward on their first attacking move of the night. David Lopez drifts out to the right flank as the home side try to hit their opponents on a quick counter-attack, but Thomas Vermaelen is there to easily deal with the danger.
Barcelona push forward once again as they keep putting plenty of pressure on the hosts' back line. Carles Alena receives the ball in a promising position just outside of the box after more good play by Messi, but the youngster can't do much with it as he's immediately closed down by a group of defenders.
It's Messi who steps up and shoots, but he ends up putting slightly too much power behind his curling strike and sends it safely over the top of the crossbar. That's an early let off for the home side.
It doesn't take long for Lionel Messi to burst forward on the first attack of the evening after being left in a pocket of space in the middle of the pitch. He bursts towards the Espanyol penalty area and is clumsily tripped over by Javi Fuego, who gives away a free-kick in a very dangerous position 25 yards away from goal.
We're off! Barcelona get us underway, attacking from right to left.
The two sides are making their way out onto the pitch, with just a few minutes to go until kick-off.
Meanwhile, Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has also made five alterations to the team that featured in their last outing, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic, Andre Gomes and Luis Suarez making way for Jasper Cillessen, Lucas Digne, Carles Alena, Aleix Vidal and Denis Suarez.
Quique Sanchez Flores has decided to make five changes to the Espanyol side that drew 1-1 with Athletic Club on the weekend, with Diego Lopez, David Lopez, Naldo, Marco Navarro and Javi Fuego coming into the starting line-up to replace Pau Lopez, Javi Lopez, Mario Hermoso, Jose Jurado and Leo Baptistao, respectively.
Barcelona substitutes: Ter Stegen, Semedo, Alba, Rafinha, Gomes, Rakitic, Luis Suarez.
Barcelona XI (4-3-3): Cillessen; Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Digne; Paulinho, Busquets, Alena; Vidal, Messi, Denis Suarez.
Espanyol substitutes: Pau Lopez, Vila, Javi Lopez, Hermoso, Melendo, Piatti, Baptistao.
Espanyol XI (3-5-2): Diego Lopez; Duarte, David Lopez, Naldo; Navarro, Sanchez, Fuego, Darder, Martin; Granero; Moreno.
There’s just under 15 minutes left to go until kick-off, so let’s have a look at how the two teams will be lining up this evening…
They’ve struggled against the other big sides, however, and Barcelona are no exception. They found themselves on the receiving end of a 5-0 thrashing when they last met back in September, and it’s now almost nine years since they last beat their local rivals in a league game. They’ve shipped 17 goals in the previous four meetings between the two, and it looks as if it’s going to be another difficult game for them tonight.
The first half of the season proved to be a slightly tricky one for Espanyol, but they currently find themselves on a four-game unbeaten run in the league heading into tonight’s tough contest. It’s their best run of form in over a year, and last month they showed how much they’ve improved by coming away with all three points at home to title-chasing Atletico Madrid in what was arguably their best win of the campaign so far.
The current Copa del Rey holders are not only in fine form in LaLiga - where they comfortably sit unbeaten at the top of the table - but have had few problems in this season’s cup, too. They easily swept aside Real Murcia 8-0 on aggregate before beating Celta Vigo 5-1 over two legs, and with seven victories from their last eight games, they’ll certainly be feeling confident about their chances of winning again this evening.
Tonight’s clash between two local rivals not only presents Barcelona with an opportunity to put one foot in the last four of the cup but could also see them extend their unbeaten run to 30 games. The Blaugrana’s excellent run of form looked as if it was going to come to an end when they went 2-0 down away to Real Sociedad on the weekend, but they showed their undeniable class as they fought back to win 4-2.
Good evening and welcome to our live text commentary of today’s Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg between Espanyol and Barcelona at the RCDE Stadium.