Barca held after late goal in Catalan Derby
Despite 2-2 draw with Espanyol, Valverde's side are still top of La Liga
La Liga leaders Barcelona were held to a 2-2 draw at struggling Espanyol yesterday morning (Singapore time), as China striker Wu Lei came off the bench to grab a late equaliser in a pulsating city derby.
Luis Suarez appeared to have inspired another turnaround at the RCDE Stadium after he cancelled out David Lopez's opener with a deft half-volley before digging out an exquisite pass for substitute Arturo Vidal to finish.
But a red card for Frenkie de Jong with 15 minutes left gave Espanyol, who have not beaten their local rivals in the league since 2009, renewed hope and Wu emerged the hero, firing past stand-in goalkeeper Neto to rescue a point in Abelardo Fernandez's first game in charge.
Barca still top the standings on goal difference after 19 games, but they are level on points with second-placed Real Madrid, who beat Getafe 3-0 on Saturday.
"We did the hardest thing which is to come from behind away from home and take the lead so it feels like two points dropped," Suarez said.
"It's always tougher with one player less, as the opponents start to grow in confidence but it's not an excuse. We are the champions and we are obliged to win every game so we need to come up with some solutions."
Barca coach Ernesto Valverde said the sending-off had been crucial.
"De Jong's red card did us a lot of damage, we had three chances to finish them off then, with one chance, they equalised," he said.
"Everything was in our favour, then we were knocked out of shape. We feel bad because we wanted all three points."
Meanwhile, Real made a more impressive start to their year as they picked apart a robust Getafe side, even without the suspended Sergio Ramos and injured Eden Hazard.
Raphael Varane was the instigator of two goals at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, first pressuring Getafe's David Soria into a missed punch and an own goal, before himself heading home a free-kick from midfielder Toni Kroos.
"I'm happy with his performance, it's especially important when Sergio Ramos isn't there, to have another leader," said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.
Luka Modric added a third deep into injury-time after a brilliant first-time pass by Gareth Bale had set Los Blancos away on the counter-attack.
Hazard's worryingly extended absence has offered a reprieve for Isco, who started again, and Bale, who twice should have scored in the second half, only to tee up Modric via substitute Federico Valverde.
At the other end, Thibaut Courtois appears finally to be finding his best form after a rocky start since his summer move from Chelsea, making three strong saves before Varane's second gave Real breathing space.
"He saved us two or three times in the first half, he was key," said Zidane. - AFP, REUTERS
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