Barcelona’s end to 2022 was soured by referee Mateu Lahoz who awarded a quite bizarre penalty to Espanyol late on which handed them an equaliser. The 1-1 draw means Real Madrid end the year joint top of the table.
The Blaugrana went into the match under pressure following Real Madrid’s 2-0 win over Real Valladolid the night before, and knew they needed a victory to reclaim top spot.
Any pre-game nerves were settled early on when Marcos Alonso headed Barcelona into the lead on just six minutes. Ansu Fati’s corner was flicked on by Robert Lewandowski to the back post where Andreas Christensen was lingering. The Dane’s header found Marcos Alonso who nodded past the onrushing goalkeeper for a perfect start.
Marcos Alonso then had a golden chance on 18 minutes to score his second from a Jordi Alba cross but, with his weaker right foot, he somehow managed to guide it wide from point blank range.
Espanyol’s first glimpse of goal came on 33 minutes, when Nico Melamed looked to arrow a short into the far corner, but Sergi Roberto’s block diverted it wide.
Just before the break, Raphinha tried his luck from outside the box with a powerful left footed drive. The goalkeeper made an unorthodox save which saw the ball trickle across goal but was eventually cleared.
Ten minutes into the second half, Barcelona should’ve had the goal that would’ve given them comfort. Alonso swung in a wonderful cross which Lewandowski connected with sweetly but the ball went just wide.
The Lahoz show
But the turning point came on 73 minutes when Espanyol were awarded an inexplicable penalty. Alonso barely touched Joselu in the box which prompted the former Real Madrid striker to collapse to the ground.
Lahoz pointed to the spot straight away and was not prompted to review the decision by VAR. Joselu got back up after having being rolling around in agony moments before, and converted beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The game then descended into chaos as Jordi Alba was shown two quick yellow cards for dissent. Then Espanyol were reduced to nine men – Vinicius Souza saw a second yellow for a foul and Cabrera received a straight red after kicking Lewandowski in the head as he was on the ground.
This time, however, VAR did intervene to overturn the red of Cabrera.
Lahoz, as is so often the case, took on the role of the protagonist and did Real Madrid a huge favour to help them end the year joint top of the table together with Barcelona.