A hectic Barcelona derby at Espanyol's Cornella de Llobregat ended with a 1-0 win for Gerardo Martino's team as a third vital Leo Messi penalty in one week saw Barcelona climb to the top of the La Liga table, even if only for a few hours.
A win against Real Madrid in last Sunday's El Clásico and a midweek 3-0 triumph over Celta Vigo while their rivals were losing in Seville had already made this a successful week for the reigning La Liga champs and a win in the derby would round off the perfect week.
Espanyol were up for the fight, however, and this was no walk in the park for the visitors. The home side pressured Barcelona and never gave their city rivals any space in the final third. The game could have turned in Barcelona's favour early on, however, when Pedro found Neymar, only for the Brazilian to head straight at goalkeeper Casilla.
Pizzi was then down the other end threatening Pinto - in for the injured Victor Valdes - but his shot rolled wide. In an end-to-end opening 20 minutes, Messi found himself with several chances to score, but was each time denied by fine challenges from a determined Espanyol defense.
A contender for miss of the season was up next as Neymar was set up perfectly by Dani Alves' ball into the box, but the youngster fired over the bar from four yards out to let the home side off the hook.
Espanyol almost capitalised on Neymar's wastefulness at the other end with Pizzi firing over from just inside the box minutes after Pinto struggled to deal with a bouncing ball and almost let the ball cross the line.
The rest of the first half carried on in the same way with end-to-end football and several yellow cards for an Espanyol side that occasionally let their determination get the better of them as Barcelona looked to draw as many fouls as possible.
Then shortly before the break, Neymar almost made up for his earlier misses by knocking the ball around the keeper from an acute angle only for the ball to bounce just past the post.
With no changes at half-time, the second period carried on just as the first had finished. There were chances for both teams before the game changed with Javi Lopez's handball in the box as the Espanyol man marked Neymar. The referee pointed to the spot and Leo Messi stepped up to score his third penalty of the week and give Barcelona a vital lead.
There would be more action for Javi Lopez's hands just a little later after Espanyol keeper Casilla used his hands five yards outside the box to block Messi's lob and with that being deemed a goal-scoring opportunity, Casilla was sent to the stands and it was Javi Lopez who donned the goalkeeper's jersey with his side having already used all three subs.
Barcelona would have liked a second to make sure of the three points with six minutes still remaining, but after missing the resulting free-kick and after Javi Lopez used his hands (legally this time) to save from Alexis, there was still just one goal in the game when Espanyol broke in the last seconds. Gerard Pique was there to clear up, however, and Pique and co escaped with a vital three points.
The win saw Barcelona go top of the league by two points over Atlético who play Bilbao later in the day, while Barcelona extended their lead over Real Madrid to five points ahead of Rayo Vallecano's trip to the Bernabéu.
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