Barcelona were able to maintain their unbeaten La Liga run and set a new club record in the process following their 1-1 Catalan Derby draw with Espanyol on Sunday afternoon. 

Following a fairly mellow first-half, the contest sparked into life in the second, with Gerard Moreno opening the scoring for the hosts via a bullet header shortly after the hour mark, before Gerard Pique responded in kind with less than 10 minutes to secure a share of the spoils. 

The result, which allowed the Blaugrana to record their 22nd league clash without tasting defeat, surpassed the previous club milestone held by Pep Guardiola’s squad of 21 Premier Division games undefeated, allowing Ernesto Valverde to write himself into the Camp Nou history books after less than a full season in charge.

Surprisingly, given the rivalry, it was a slightly laborious opening from both sides during the early exchanges inside the supporter spattered Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, with the biblical rainfall onto the heavy surface taking its toll on the fluency of the contest. 

However, despite struggling to orchestrate their way through the heavily rotated Espanyol backline during the opening quarter, record-signing Philippe Coutinho was able to offer those in attendance a glimpse of his capabilities by rattling the underside of the crossbar from range after finding a pocket of space on the edge of the area and bending his attempt towards Diego Lopez’s goal. 

Following the Brazilian’s pot-shot, play returned back to its former absent-tempoed self, but, in spite of their dormant opening 25 minutes, it was a Periquitos attack which forced the first meaningful save of the contest. 

Winger Leo Baptistao was afforded space after skipping past the backtracking Andres Iniesta midway inside the Barcelona half before advancing momentarily and unleashing a stinging attempt from range, which was eventually gobbled up by Marc-Andre ter Stegen at the second attempt following a strong palm to the floor. 

After the German’s fairly comfortable stop, aside from a Luis Suarez free-kick which skimmed the roof of the net on its way behind, there was little of note in the final 20 minutes of the first-half, with both sides heading into their respective dressing rooms with the scores equal. 

However, despite the rather damp, in every sense of the word, opening 45, the second started in flamboyant fashion, as with just 45 seconds on the clock Espanyol had the ball in the back of the net. 

Baptistao found himself bearing down on goal after being slipped in behind the Blaugrana defence by Esteban Granero, with the 25-year-old then rounding Ter Stegen and setting up his supplier who slammed home from inside the area, only to be greeted by the linesman’s flag after the official spotted the ball had left the field of play as the Brazilian attacker evaded his German counterpart. 

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But following another lull in the contest caused by the treacherous conditions, the hosts took advantage of their short spell of dominance and broke the deadlock courtesy of Gerard, who had celebrated recording his 100th appearance for the Blanquiazules pre kick-off. 

Sergio Garcia picked up possession on the right-hand side following a sloppy clearance from Ter Stegen before delivering an inch-perfect delivery into the area, which evaded the acrobatics of Gerard Pique, before finding the head of the 25-year-old striker, whose attempt had just enough pace to beat the German custodian’s efforts and put his side ahead. 

However, after taking the lead, Espanyol seemed to find comfort in dropping deeper and deeper, and with less than 10 minutes to go their over-defensive tactics, coupled with the introduction of substitute Lionel Messi, proved pivotal. 

The afternoon’s pantomime villain, Pique, who had been on the receiving end of a constant barrage of abuse from the home supporters following the defender’s comments earlier in the week, was able to latch his head onto a fizzing free-kick from the Argentine super-sub and nod home to further decrease his popularity inside the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat and level the scores. 

After the Spain international had pulled his side back level, both sides had chances in the final moments to seal the win, however, neither were able to capitalise, leaving Blaugrana still some way out in front in the title chase as they continue their hunt for the ‘invincible’ season. 

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