Xavi Hernandez started his Barcelona managerial career with a derby win as Memphis Depay scored from the penalty spot in a 1-0 victory over Espanyol.
The Camp Nou welcomed Xavi back to the club following his appointment as Ronald Koeman’s replacement before the international break and there were signs of how the former midfielder will change the Catalans.
Barca controlled much of the first half as they looked to keep hold of possession and press high on the opposition, as Barca teams traditionally do, but Espanyol did a good job of keeping things tight at the back.
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Raul de Tomas came close to opening the scoring, but had his shot from a tight angle deflected just over Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s crossbar as Barcelona continued to control the ball.
Espanyol made it to the break level, but finally fell behind just three minutes into the second half when Memphis converted from 12 yards out after the controversial award of a penalty kick.
De Tomas was presented with a golden opportunity to restore parity, but sent a strike wide of the post after being released in behind the Barcelona high line through a quickly-taken freekick.
The intensity of Barcelona’s pressing dropped as the match moved into its final phase with Espanyol pushing for an equaliser that nearly came through de Tomas who hit the outside of the post with a freekick.
Substitute Nany Dimata should have found the back of the net soon after, but somehow put his unchallenged header wide from just six yards out before de Tomas struck the post for a second time.
However, an exhausted Barcelona team hung on for all three points and a result that moved them up to sixth place in the La Liga table.
TALKING POINT - Barcelona look more like Barcelona again
While Barcelona were blunter in front of goal than Xavi would have liked, there was plenty in their performance to suggest that the former midfielder has made an instant impact at the Camp Nou. Barca kept the ball well and pressed high out of possession with Espanyol suffocated for large periods of the match. This, of course, is the style of football the Camp Nou crowd are used to watching. Barcelona look more like Barcelona again.
MAN OF THE MATCH - Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
There were a number of standout performers for Barcelona including Memphis, Gavi and Abde Ezzalzouli, but Sergio Busquets tied everything together for the hosts. The veteran midfielder looks to have been revitalised by the appointment of Xavi who wants Busquets to replicate his international form at club level. It wasn’t just that Busquets gave Barcelona structure in the centre of the pitch, he also played a number of sensational defence-splitting passes from deep.
Barcelona - Ter Stegen 5; Mingueza 4, Garcia 6, Pique 7, Alba 5; Busquets 9, Nico 8, F De Jong 7; Gavi 8, Akhomach 5, Memphis 8. Subs - Abde 7, Araujo 3, Coutinho 4, Demir 3, Puig 4.
Espanyol - Lopez 6; Vidal 5, Gomez 5, Cabrera 4, Pedrosa 6; D. Lopez 5, Darder 4; Herrera 4, Puado 5, Embarba 5; De Tomas 4. Subs - Wu 2, Dimata 3, Morlanes 6, Ribaudo 5, Moron 1.
14’ Chance for Akhomach! That would have been the dream debut for the 17-year-old, but he puts over the target when he might have found the back of the net instead! Good opportunity.
45’ So close! De Tomas made the most of some indecision in the Barcelona defence, but his shot from a tight angle picks up a deflection and spins just over Ter Stegen's crossbar.
47’ PENALTY KICK TO BARCELONA! Memphis goes down inside the box and the referee points to the spot!
48’ GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: Memphis steps up to take the spot kick having won it himself and the Barcelona forward sends his strike straight down the middle as Lopez dives out of the way! The Catalans have the lead and the Camp Nou has erupted! They enjoyed that!
69’ DE TOMAS... wide! That should have been the equaliser for Espanyol! The freekick was played quickly over the top of the Barcelona defence, de Tomas controlled it, but could only strike wide!
83’ Off the post! Inches away from being a stunning equaliser for Espanyol! De Tomas beat ter Stegen with his freekick effort from the edge of the box, but the ball comes off the outside of the post!
84’ HOW DID HE MISS?! My goodness! Dimata was presented with a golden opportunity to head home from six yards out, but he somehow managed to put his effort wide of the target!
86’ Off the post AGAIN! How aren't Espanyol level here? This time it's de Tomas who has the unmarked header inside the penalty area, but the striker's header comes off the woodwork again!
Barcelona attempted 11 shots against Espanyol (four shots on target), their highest shots tally in a first half of a match this season (all competitions).
Memphis Depay has won more points with his goals for Barcelona this season than any other player besides Mikel Oyarzabal (both seven points).
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