Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde put the blame on Frenkie de Jong’s red card for failing to beat local rivals Espanyol in their first La Liga fixture of 2020
Barcelona were held to a dismal 2-2 draw to Espanyol on Saturday night, allowing second-placed Real Madrid to cut down the gap at the summit.
Although the Catalans found themselves on the back foot in the 23rd minute, Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal scored twice in quick succession to put Barca in front ahead of the hour mark.
And when they seemed to be in firm control of the game, Frenkie de Jong made a silly mistake in the middle of the park and received his second yellow card of the day, leaving his teammates with a man down.
Espanyol’s substitute, Wu Lei, punished De Jong’s expulsion in the 88th minute, rescuing a point for his side that in spite of a good result against fierce rivals, remain nailed to the bottom of the table.
Furious with the Dutchman’s blunder, Ernesto Valverde has given his verdict of the match.
“De Jong’s red card did us damage,” said the Spaniard during the post-match conference, as reported by FourFourTwo.
“We had three chances to kill the game off, and we ended up drawing from one chance.
“We more or less controlled the match, and we were fine after coming back (from a goal down), with this intention of continuing to score.
“They went forward, and we were left with more space. It was in our favour, and it removed us a bit, the opponent is always going to push at the end.
“They’re going to have a (chance), they had that, and they converted it.”
The reigning holders remain at the top of La Liga, but they are now level on points with arch-rivals Real Madrid.
They will have a perfect opportunity to bounce back when out-of-sorts Granada arrive at the Camp Nou on January 23, but Valverde’s men now have to focus on a massive Super Cup showdown against Atletico Madrid.