Referee Mateu Lahoz’s decision to award a strange penalty to Espanyol late in the game, which gave them an equalizer, marred Barcelona‘s conclusion to 2022. Real Madrid ends the year as the league’s best team thanks to the 1-1 draw.
Real Madrid‘s 2-0 victory over Real Valladolid the previous night put pressure on the Blaugrana, who knew they needed to win to retake first place.
Any jitters from before the game were allayed as Marcos Alonso gave Barcelona the lead after only six minutes.
Robert Lewandowski flicked on Ansu Fati’s corner to the back post, where Andreas Christensen was standing still. The start was ideal as Marcos Alonso nodded the ball beyond the advancing goalkeeper after the Dane’s header.
On the 18th minute, Marcos Alonso was given a wonderful opportunity to add a second goal thanks to a cross from Jordi Alba, but he managed to send the ball beyond with his weaker right foot.
On minute 33, Nico Melamed attempted to arrow a short shot into the far corner, but Sergi Roberto’s block deflected it wide. This was Espanyol’s first opportunity to score.
Raphinha attempted to score from outside the area just before the interval with a strong left-footed effort. The goalkeeper made a daring save, allowing the ball to trickle across the goal but ultimately be cleared.
Barcelona ought to have scored the consoling goal ten minutes into the second half. Lewandowski connected sweetly with a wonderful cross that Alonso lashed in, but the ball barely missed the mark.
The Lahoz show
The crucial moment, though, occurred when Espanyol was given an illogical penalty at the 73-minute mark. Joselu, a former Real Madrid striker, was barely touched by Alonso in the box, causing him to fall to the ground.
Lahoz immediately pointed to the location and was not asked by the VAR to review the ruling. Joselu, who had been writhing in pain moments earlier, climbed back up and scored beyond Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
When Jordi Alba received two quick cautions for dissent, the game broke down into anarchy. Then Espanyol was down to nine men when Cabrera was sent off for kicking Lewandowski in the head while he was on the ground and Vinicius Souza was given a second yellow for a foul.
However, this time, VAR did step in to reverse Cabrera’s red.
Lahoz assumed the lead, as is so frequently the case, and significantly helped Real Madrid conclude the year at the top of the standings at the cost of Barcelona.