Cornella de Llobregat, Spain, Feb 13 (EFE).- Barcelona had to wait for a stoppage time header from Luuk de Jong to snatch something positive out of its Catalan derby with Espanyol on Sunday at RCDE Stadium in a high voltage 2-2 match that ended with Barca’s Gerard Pique and Espanyol’s Nico Melamed both being expelled in the final stretch.
Espanyol came ever so close to upending the derby history before just over 25,000 fans, given that they had not won at home since 2006-2007 but getting on the board first just two minutes into the action on a tally by Pedri.
Team captain Sergi Darder evened things up for Barca in the 40th minute, and after the break, Barcelona thought they had regained the advantage about the 60th minute when midfielder Gavi fired into the net but VAR review led to the cancellation of the goal due to offside in the set-up.
Although Barca kept control of the ball for most of the match, the home team went ahead once again in minute 66 on a goal by Raul de Tomas.
Barca coach Xavi Hernandez inserted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele and Luuk de Jong late in the action as the team desperately tried to stave off defeat.
But finally the attack paid off – albeit it just moments before the end of extra time – with the home team having no time to react to Luuk de Jong’s last-gasp 2-2 goal, as he headed in a cross from Adama Traore, thereby salvaging a ranking point from what had looked like a sure loss.
Both teams ended the fray with 10 men, after Pique and Nico Melamed were sent off just prior to De Jong’s saving tally, both with their second yellow cards.
With the draw, fourth-placed Barca is now tied with Atletico de Madrid with 39 points, while Real Madrid remains in the No. 1 spot on the La Liga table with 54 points, followed by Sevilla with 50 and Real Betis with 43.
RCD Espanyol: Diego Lopez; Aleix Vidal (Calero, min.89), Cabrera, Sergi Gomez, Pedrosa; Keidi Bare (Morlanes, min.62) (Fran Merida, min.70); Yangel Herrera, Darder; Puado, Vilhena (Melamed, min.61) and Raul de Tomas.
FC Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo (Eric Garcia, min.46), Pique, Jordi Alba; Busquets, Frenkie De Jong (Aubameyang, min.62), Pedri (Luuk de Jong, min.88); Gavi (Nico, min.72), Adama Traore and Ferran Torres (Dembele, min.72).