Luis Suarez struck in the second half of a tight Catalan derby at Camp Nou to keep Barcelona’s hopes of winning LaLiga alive and condemn city rivals Espanyol to relegation with three rounds remaining.
Barcelona had the majority of the possession in the first half, when Suarez missed their best chance as he ran onto an Antoine Griezmann pass but saw his left-footed shot deflected wide.
But Espanyol came close on a couple of occasions and arguably had the better opportunities in the opening 45 minutes.
Adrian Embarba’s low shot from a tight angle on the right was kept out by Marc-Andre ter Steen’s right foot early on and Didac Vila grazed the post late in the half after Clement Lenglet had almost put past Ter Stegen as he attempted to clear an Espanyol cross.
Barca, so impressive in the 4-1 win at Villarreal on Sunday, had been disappointing and for the first time at Camp Nou in 2019-20, they finished a half without registering a single shot on target.
Quique Setien sent on Ansu Fati to give his side some more imagination in the second half, but the youngster lasted only five minutes after his high challenge caught Fernando Calero and VAR upgraded the initial card from yellow to red.
On the sidelines, Setien shook his head, but just a few minutes later it was 10 versus 10 as Pol Lozano caught Gerard Pique and the video assistant referee decided that too was worthy of a dismissal.
That represented a boost for Barca after the Blaugrana had been a man down and the champions took the lead moments later, when Griezmann flicked ball back into Lionel Messi’s path at the near post, the Argentine saw a shot blocked and Suarez was on hand to beat Diego Lopez from close range.
Lopez made a superb save from a Messi volley later on, while Espanyol continued to look dangerous from set pieces and saw a header hit the roof of the net at the end of added time.
Barcelona move to within a point of LaLiga leaders Real Madrid, in action at home to Alaves on Friday, with three rounds remaining.
Espanyol, meanwhile, are relegated to Spain’s Segunda Division following their defeat at Camp Nou
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