Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde blamed Frenkie De Jong’s red card for
dropping two points in the derby draw with Espanyol.
Substitute Wu Lei struck in the 88th minute to earn bottom club Espanyol a dramatic 2-2 draw and leave Barcelona level on points at the top of LaLiga with Real Madrid.
Luis Suarez and substitute Arturo Vidal overturned David Lopez’s first-half goal at the start of the second period, but Dutch midfielder De Jong was sent off for a second bookable offence 15 minutes from time.
“De Jong’s red card did us damage,” Valverde said at his post-match press conference.
“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.
De Jong's red card did us damageBarcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde
“They’re going to have a (chance), they had that and they converted it.”
Real hit the ground running after the winter break to win 3-0 at Getafe earlier on Saturday.
The pair are five points clear of Atletico Madrid – who beat Levante 2-1 on Saturday – and Sevilla.
“It leaves a bad taste because we wanted the three points,” Valverde said.
“We went in front and it feels like you’ve achieved a point if you equalise at the end.
“If you concede a late equaliser, it feels like you lose two points.
“It was difficult to break them down, but bit by bit we did it. However, we were left with 10 men and they equalised.”
Scorer Lopez said the hosts had to be content with a point, even though Jonathan Calleri passed up a late chance to secure a first derby win for Espanyol in nearly 11 years.
Los Periquitos are four points adrift of safety at the halfway of the season, but new head coach Abelardo has clearly had an instant impact at the club.
“Seeing the situation we were in, the leaders against the last, we’re very happy with the team,” Lopez said on Premier Sports.
“The point is worth a lot with the situation that we’re in.
“Against the leaders, having to come from behind, is very difficult. But these guys don’t give up and we battled until the end.
“The manager told us not to be so open as opponents have found it easy to play between our lines.
“We didn’t let Barcelona do that and we made it as difficult as possible for them.
“We’re all convinced we can stay up. We’re starting with this disadvantage, but we think we can do it.”