Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: Depay penalty gets Xavi off to winning start

By Sports Desk November 20, 2021

Xavi enjoyed a winning start as Barcelona head coach as they claimed a 1-0 derby win over Espanyol at Camp Nou.

Appointed as Ronald Koeman's successor and tasked with restoring both style and results to Barca, the former midfielder would not have wanted to countenance the end of a 22-match unbeaten run against their city rivals.

The Blaugrana were profligate with their chances, though, and it took a controversial Memphis Depay penalty to secure victory as Espanyol missed out on the chance to move three points clear of Barca in the table.

Barca had 77 per cent of the possession in the first 15 minutes, Depay and Ilias Akhomach leading a dangerous-looking attack in front of a buoyant crowd of more than 74,000.

However, Espanyol proved a difficult defence to breach and the visitors came closest to snatching the lead, Raul de Tomas' shot deflecting just over Marc-Andre ter Stegen's crossbar.

Three minutes after half-time, Leandro Cabrera was penalised for a challenge on Depay – despite appearing to make contact with the ball – and the Netherlands international swept home the spot-kick.

Barca could not build on their lead, though, and De Tomas came within inches of an equaliser when his free-kick clipped the outside of the left-hand post.

Landry Dimata should have snatched a point, but he could only nod wide of Ter Stegen's goal from six yards out, and De Tomas was again denied by the woodwork from another unmarked header.

 

What does it mean? Encouraging start for Xavi's new era

This was a slender victory that only moved Barca to within eight points of league leaders Sevilla, so there are few reasons to become too excited.

However, the signs of Xavi's influence were clear: the strong man-to-man pressing, the possession-based play and the commitment to attack were all obvious, even if the end product was not always the best.

This was an encouraging start to life for the new coach.

Xavi making his mark

There were eight graduates from the La Masia academy in the starting line-up and they seemed determined to carry out Xavi's instructions to the letter.

Barca had 11 shots in the first half, their most in a LaLiga match this season, and enjoyed 70 per cent of the ball before the break.

Espanyol pay for slow start

Espanyol were on a run of three wins in six games, as many as in their previous 25, and you would have thought the chance to ruin Xavi's day would have been a huge incentive.

As it was, they only truly threatened in the final 15 minutes and mustered just two shots on target.

What's next?

Xavi gets his first taste of Champions League action as a coach on Tuesday, when Barca host Benfica.

Related items

  • Rumour Has It: Atletico's Suarez wants Gerrard reunion at Aston Villa Rumour Has It: Atletico's Suarez wants Gerrard reunion at Aston Villa

    Luis Suarez's future at Atletico Madrid is unclear with his contract to expire at the end of the season.

    Suarez helped Atleti win LaLiga last term with 21 goals.

    The Uruguayan joined Atletico from top-flight rivals Barcelona in 2020 on a two-year deal.

    TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS GERRARD REUNION AT VILLA

    Suarez wants a reunion with former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, reports Gerard Romero.

    The Atletico Madrid forward's contract expires at the end of this season and has been sounded out by numerous Brazilian clubs.

    Suarez has had offers from Palmeiras, Corinthians and Atletico Mineiro but wants to link up with Gerrard who took over at Villa in January.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - ESPN claims Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Milan's Franck Kessie, as part of their effort to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay in the French capital amid interest from Real Madrid.

    - Juventus have made an enquiry for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria according to 90min as they prepare for Arthur Melo to join Arsenal .

    - Arsenal's bid to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic looks to have hit a roadblock with the Serbian only interested in joining Juventus, reports the Mail.

    - Milan want to bolster their backline and are interested in a loan deal for Tottenham's Japhet Tanganga, claims Fabrizio Romano.

    - Leicester City and Newcastle United may rival Brentford to sign Inter's Christian Eriksen, reports the Times.

  • Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi Australian Open: She can hit you off the court – Barty wary of Giorgi

    World number one Ash Barty is wary of Camila Giorgi's ability to "hit you off the court" ahead of their meeting at the Australian Open.

    Barty crushed Lucia Bronzetti 6-1 6-1 in the second round on Rod Laver Arena on Wednesday.

    The Australian has lost just three games in the opening two rounds at Melbourne Park, where she is bidding to win her third grand slam title.

    Another Italian, 30th seed Giorgi, awaits in the third round and Barty is wary of the hard-hitting 30-year-old.

    "Some very different challenges to what I've had the last couple matches. She has the ability to hold baseline, to control the centre of the court, be super, super aggressive off her serve and first shot, particularly off her return," she said.

    "It's going to be a match where I'm going to have to serve well, bring in variety, make sure I can cover the court, neutralise the best that I can. She has the ability to hit you off the court without realising it's happening.

    "I think it's going to be another match with some fresh challenges. But having played her before, she kind of knows my game, I kind of know hers. It's about going out there and trying to do it as good as I can."

    In three previous meetings with Giorgi, Barty has never lost, although the most recent of those came at the 2018 Australian Open.

    Barty has been in impressive form so far in Melbourne and was pleased with her performance against Bronzetti.

    "Yeah, I felt good. I felt like I wanted to try to use my experience a little bit today, get off to a quick start. I felt like I was able to do that," she said.

    "I served well. I was able to find plenty of forehands and control the match quite well, so pleased with that one."

  • Australian Open: Nadal stays on track in Melbourne Australian Open: Nadal stays on track in Melbourne

    Rafael Nadal remains on track for a record-breaking 21st grand slam title after getting past Yannick Hanfmann at the Australian Open.

    Nadal, bidding to become the outright record holder for the most majors won by a man, was too good for Hanfmann in a 6-2 6-3 6-4 victory in the second round on Wednesday.

    The Spanish star had won his only previous meeting with the German – at the French Open in 2019 – and proved too strong on Rod Laver Arena.

    Nadal will face either Russian 28th seed Karen Khachanov or Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi in the third round.

    Hanfmann held his own early, but Nadal landed the first break in the sixth game, a backhand winner down the line followed by a volley to give him a 4-2 lead.

    A break point went begging for Hanfmann in the next game and Nadal punished him, a tremendous backhand winner down the line clinching the set.

    Just as the sixth game looked set to be Hanfmann's undoing again, the German saved a break point and held for 3-3.

    But a pair of forehand winners would give Nadal a 5-3 lead on his way to taking the second set.

    The contest looked over as Nadal broke for 2-1 in the third set when Hanfmann sent a forehand long to end a 22-shot rally.

    And that proved to be the case, Nadal digging out of a 0-30 hole in the eighth game – and jumping in celebration – before closing out his win with another tough hold.

     

    DATA SLAM: Nadal's second-round perfection in Melbourne intact

    Nadal has never lost in the Australian Open second round.

    He improved that record to 16-0 with the win over Hanfmann. Only once in his career has the 2009 champion bowed out before the third round in Melbourne – losing to Fernando Verdasco in his opener in 2016.

    WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
    Nadal – 30/26
    Hanfmann – 30/32

    ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
    Nadal – 1/5
    Hanfmann – 5/1

    BREAK POINTS WON
    Nadal – 4/16
    Hanfmann – 0/2

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.