Player ratings as sloppy hosts held in derby

Barcelona will end 2022 second in La Liga’s standings after they were held to a 1-1 draw in a real card-fest against Espanyol on Saturday.

Possession wasn’t a problem for Xavi’s side but they were painfully slow for the majority of the game and Marcos Alonso’s early opener was cancelled out by Joselu’s penalty after the break, when all hell started to break loose.

Gavi had the game’s first chance as he snuck in behind the defence six minutes in, forcing a nice save from Alvaro Fernandez, but the opening goal came from the resulting corner.

Some shocking defending gifted Robert Lewandowski a free header but the Pole’s effort was surprisingly off target. Instead, it found Andreas Christensen at the back post, and his cut-back found a third unmarked teammate in the form of Alonso to fire home.

Alonso should have had a second ten minutes later as Jordi Alba’s cross found him just a few yards from goal, but he failed to keep his effort on target.

Xavi’s side were dominant in possession but their sights of goal dried up until Raphinha’s strike from range had Fernandez scrambling eight minutes before the interval. Barcelona were clearly the better side in the first half but their lack of urgency or quality in the final third gave the boss something to work on at half time.

Lewandowski missed his second header of the game ten minutes into the second half, leaping high in the box but sending his effort wide of the post.

The slow tempo continued into the second half, gifting Espanyol a glimmer of hope. The away side were allowed to hang about and were gifted the chance for an equaliser as Alonso accidentally stood on the back of Joselu’s boot in the box.

Mateu Lahoz awarded a penalty and Joselu stepped up to fire down the middle, scoring Espanyol’s first goal against Barcelona in eight hours and 52 minutes of trying. It was also the first goal Barcelona have conceded at Camp Nou this season.

Things went from bad to worse soon after as Alba was shown two yellow cards for dissent inside as many minutes to earn himself an early bath.

Espanyol failed to make the most of their advantage, however, as they were shown two red cards of their own ten minutes from time. Vinicius Souza was shown two yellows himself, but before the cards came out, Leandro Cabrera saw red himself for a stamp on Lewandowski. VAR intervened, however, and Cabrera was permitted to stay on the pitch.

With play back underway, Christensen nearly netted a header of his own but Fernandez pulled out an excellent save to keep his side alive, and the goalkeeper was back to his feet to deny Lewandowski shortly after.

Lahoz was throwing yellow cards around with reckless abandon as the clock ticked down, adding a sprinkle of drama to what was otherwise a thoroughly disappointing performance from Barcelona.

Marcos Alonso

Alonso headed home early / Eric Alonso/GettyImages

GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen – 6/10 – Barely involved whatsoever. Unfortunate to lose his clean sheet.

RB: Sergi Roberto – 7/10 – Didn’t do a whole lot on the ball but his smart off-ball runs were really impactful in the opening stages. An intelligent performance.

CB: Andreas Christensen – 7/10 – With so little defending to do, Christensen was more involved in attack than at the back. A clever assist for Alonso.

CB: Marcos Alonso – 7/10 – Took every possible opportunity to get forwards and, unsurprisingly, got his goal. Perhaps a little unfortunate with the penalty but can have no complaints.

LB: Jordi Alba – 4/10 – Sensational early on as Barcelona played with a high tempo although his influence soon faded when the speed dropped. Really, really foolish to get himself sent off.

DM: Frenkie de Jong – 7/10 – His movement is what sets him apart from Sergio Busquets. De Jong was the conductor at the base of Barcelona’s midfield and played further forward after Gavi’s injury.

CM: Gavi – 6/10 – Cool on the ball but needed to speed things up when it became clear that Barcelona’s level had dropped. Forced off through injury early in the second half. Somehow booked for getting choked.

CM: Pedri – 4/10 – Held back in more of a deeper role here which really hampered his involvement, but was stunningly sloppy in possession.

RW: Raphinha – 4/10 – Played some nice passes but didn’t offer enough attacking threat himself. Probably a little too safe in that respect.

ST: Robert Lewandowski – 4/10 – Completely isolated in the centre as Barcelona failed to find their way towards goal. Surprisingly wasteful with the header that led to Alonso’s opener and missed another after the break. Good job Barcelona spent weeks making sure he was available for this.

LW: Ansu Fati – 3/10 – Erratic and ineffective. Hasn’t been the same since his injury and failed to take his chance here.

Substitutes

Sergio Busquets (52′ for Gavi) – 5/10 – The king of slowing things down did nothing to address the lack of urgency.

Ousmane Dembele (62′ for Raphinha) – 3/10 – Some absolutely rotten decisions as he lashed two shocking strikes well wide of goal when he should have done something else.

Ferran Torres (62′ for Fati) – 5/10 – Not particularly involved either.

Alejandro Balde (82′ for Roberto) – 7/10 – A lively threat who was let down by his teammates.

Jules Kounde (82′ for De Jong) – 6/10 – Didn’t get much time to strut his stuff.

Manager

Xavi – 4/10 – Had no answers for anything. The tempo slowed midway through the first half and Xavi changed nothing, allowing Espanyol to stay alive in the game and ultimately secure their equaliser. Failed to take advantage of the visitors’ tactical shortcomings and was made to pay.

Player of the match – Alvaro Fernandez (Espanyol)