Pedro and David Villa struck a brace apiece as Barcelona brushed aside Espanyol in the Catalan derby at Cornella tonight, ending their city rivals' perfect home record in the league this season and ensuring top spot as the Primera Division heads into the winter break. The historic 5-1 result was the first time Barça have ever racked up five goals away to their city rivals.
Pedro and Xavi gave Pep Guardiola's side a healthy lead at half-time, before the Tenerife-born winger struck again in the second half. Dani Osvaldo got one back for Espanyol after that, but the defending champions always looked in control with David Villa added two more goals late in the game. The champions are now five points ahead of rivals Real Madrid, who host Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday.
Barça could only draw the corresponding fixture last season and usually face a tough game against their city rivals, who were up in fourth place at the start of the day. Espanyol had won all of their seven Primera Division matches at Cornella prior to this one, but Barcelona came into the 16th-round clash with a perfect away record and Mauricio Pochettino's side knew they were facing their toughest test yet at home.
Osvaldo drilled a low, angled shot towards goal from the right-hand side after just two minutes, but Victor Valdes gathered comfortably and Barcelona soon began to take control of possession. Lionel Messi saw his first effort saved by Carlos Kameni after nine minutes and should have given Pep Guardiola's side the lead moments later, when he inexplicably scooped a right-footed effort over the bar from the edge of the box with the goal at his mercy. In other matches, that may have been a costly miss, but it seemed unlikely in this case as Barcelona continued to press forward with intent and quality.Sergio Busquets found Pedro with a long pass, the Spain winger laid the ball off to Messi, got it back and slid a low shot past Kameni and into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Luis Garcia saw a free-kick comfortably saved by Victor Valdes at the other end and Jose Callejon was denied by a brilliant stop from the visiting goalkeeper ten minutes before the break.
By that time, though, Espanyol were already two down.
Barça second had come five minutes earlier, when Xavi drilled a powerful shot past Kameni from a tight angle at the second time of asking, after his first effort had been blocked. David Villa then shot over the bar before the break as Barca sought a third. Pedro fired a speculative effort over the top from distance after 56 minutes, but did extend the visitors' lead shortly afterwards.
Messi surged forward form the centre circle, played a one-two with Pedro and tested Kameni with a low shot from the edge of the box, which the Cameroon keeper could only push into the path of the winger, who scored his second of the night from a tight angle. At the other end, Osvaldo then found space on the right three minutes later and beat Valdes with a low, angled drive to give the home side hope.The goal lifted Espanyol and Osvaldo headed off target with 20 minutes left, before side-footing weakly with only Valdes to beat moments later.
Any hopes of a comeback were dashed, though, as Villa made it 4-1 with 15 minutes left.
Messi's neat through-ball left the Spain striker one-on-one with Kameni and the former Valencia man slid a low shot past the African to put the win beyond doubt. Villa then made it 5-1 with another low finish six minutes from time.
While Guardiola's side move provisionally five points clear at the top, Espanyol stay fourth for now, but Pochettino's side can be caught by Valencia tomorrow.