- Barcelona held 1-1 by Espanyol in city derby
- Draw leaves them five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid
- AC Milan stay top in Italy on goal difference from Juventus
- PSG survive French Cup scare in Carlo Ancelotti’s first matchBarcelona’s La Liga title hopes suffered a setback after being held to a 1-1 draw at Espanyol in Sunday’s Catalan derby.
It left the reigning Spanish and European champions five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid, who thrashed Granada 5-1 on Saturday.
The visitors took a 16th-minute lead through a header from Cesc Fabregas, who had an earlier effort ruled out for handball in the build-up by Lionel Messi.
The former Arsenal midfielder also hit the woodwork before Argentina maestro Messi — one of three candidates for Monday’s FIFA Ballon d’Or awards announcement — clipped the outside of the post with a shot in the second half.
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But Barca’s cross-city rivals stuck to their task and were rewarded when Alvaro Vazquez scored four minutes from time with a low header.
Barca searched desperately for the winner and defender Gerard Pique hit the woodwork in injury-time from close range, and then an appeal for a penalty after an apparent handball by Espanyol’s Raul Rodriguez — who blocked Pedro’s follow-up shot — was turned down by the referee.
“In football you must overcome these types of things. We have to be concerned with what we can control,” Barca coach Pep Guardiola told reporters.
“We’ve always done things this way and we will continue to do so. We cannot control the referees, rather we must focus on improving the things that we didn’t do well.
“After the equalizing goal, we reacted correctly, but it was too late. I cannot be dissatisfied with this team, I could never be. There is still a lot of Liga still yet to be played and a lot of points up for grabs.”
In Sunday’s other La Liga action, Aritz Aduriz grabbed an equalizer three minutes from time as third-placed Valencia recovered from two down to draw 2-2 against Villarreal at El Madrigal.
With Jose Molina taking charge of lowly Villarreal for the first time, he saw his new team go two up in 18 minutes as Marco Ruben and Gonzalo struck.
But Sofiane Feghouli pulled one back before half-time and Aduriz salvaged a point late on to leave his side four points behind Barca and four ahead of fourth-placed local rivals Levante, who also drew on Saturday.
Sevilla missed the chance to claim fifth place, losing 2-1 at Rayo Vallecano — who moved up to 13th and left Villarreal into the bottom three.
In Serie A, AC Milan, Juventus and Udinese all won on Sunday to pull away from the chasing pack in Italy.
Milan won 2-0 at Atalanta to remain level on points with Juve, who beat Lecce 1-0, but top on goal difference.
Udinese are just two points back after they thumped 10-man Cesena 4-1.
A Zlatan Ibrahimovic penalty in the first half and a late second from Kevin-Prince Boateng sealed the three points for leaders Milan.
Bottom club Lecce might have held Juve, but goalkeeper Massimiliano Benassi could not field Mirko Vucinic’s weak shot and Alessandro Matri ran in to head home the winner.
Udinese maintained their challenge as Antonio Di Natale set them on the way with a first minute goal but Eder equalized for Cesena.
Ghana international Kwadwo Asamoah restored Udinese’s lead before Maurizio Lauro saw red for the home side.
Dusan Basta and Di Natale with his second rounded off the scoring for the visitors.
In the French Cup, Carlo Ancelotti’s first match in charge of Paris Saint-Germain saw his side struggle to beat fifth flight Saint-Colomban Locmine 2-1.
It needed an added time winner from Uruguay captain Diego Lugano to spare Ancelotti’s blushes against the minnows.
Javier Pastore gave the away side the lead after the break, but PSG were shocked when Abou Maiga leveled.
Lugano’s header spared PSG extra time as they progressed to the last 32.