The game was stopped. Minute 26 of derby. Brian Oliván had committed a foul on Ansu Fati. And Mateu Lahoz had decreed that infraction. The Barça forward was left claiming the yellow card for the left-back of Espanyol who was at the other end of the field because he had just taken a free kick. But the Valencian referee totally forgot about the game. Even of any sanction.
Mateu Lahoz began to run diagonally (more than 30 meters) heading towards the technical area of the Barça bench. There was Xavi. Dark dress. And standing. Then, the Valencian referee appeared happy and smiling. Mateu had fulfilled his mission because he hugged the Barça coach. “I like Mateu”, Xavi had said hours before the derby. And Mateu spoke with that hug. A hug that ended badly because he showed the Barça coach a yellow card.
2- Álvaro, the hero of Espanyol
The goal belonged to Joselu, the center forward. Marcos Alonso gave him a penalty. And he marked it. But Álvaro was the man who sustained Espanyol with two decisive saves. One, in an impressive header from Christensen, which he masterfully repelled. And the second decisive action came when Lewandowski stood alone in the small parrot area. But he ran into the body of the blue and white goalkeeper, who suddenly turned out to be key to sustaining the tie.
“I’m very happy for Álvaro, he has shown that he has an incredible personality. He deserved it,” said Joselu, extolling the true role that the goalkeeper acquired.
3.- Mateu, in the center of the stage
Unclassifiable referee, who feels and acts as the true protagonist of the game, without understanding what he demands of himself. 15 fouls, seven yellows and one red card saw Espanyol (Vini da Souza). Barça made 11 fouls, received eight yellow cards and also saw a red one (Alba was sent off for protesting in four minutes).
Barça cannot have the excuse of taking refuge in the bad performance of Mateu, who after the penalty, which was very clear from Marcos Alonso on Joselu, became the only protagonist dominating all times of the derby. Especially in the final stretch. He dedicated himself to thinking about Xavi’s team so much in the Valencian collegiate that he forgot about football.
Only Balde understood what the derby needed, providing depth, speed and, especially, venom in each of his appearances on the left wing, oblivious to everything that Mateu was starring in.
4. – The penalty on Joselu
The game was dangerously placid for Barça, who had taken a nap after Marcos Alonso’s header. Then, Espanyol entered Ter Stegen’s area and the former Chelsea defender stepped on Joselu’s right foot, taking off even his boot. Penalty and parakeet goal. Only shot in more than 100 minutes. A shot, a goal and a valuable point for Diego Martínez’s team, who found the loot he needed so badly.
5.- De Jong, from valuable to being replaced
Frenkie de Jong was playing well as a center midfielder supported by Gavi (interior right) and Pedri (interior left). But the injury to the young Andalusian midfielder caused him to be replaced so Busquets entered, changing the position of the Dutchman, forced to act as a right-handed midfielder.
Then, in the midst of the row that caused Jordi Alba to be sent off, Xavi decided to do without Frenkie de Jong to bring on Koundé, who played right-back instead of Sergi Roberto, who was replaced by Balde, who took over on the left. from behind.
From key player in the first hour of the derby to be changed. This was the last day of the year for Frenkie.