Pass, pass, pass: Barcelona caps off Xavi's debut with victory over Espanyol
- Barcelona secure a gritty 1-0 victory Espanyol on Saturday
- This was Xavi Hernandez's first game in charge as Barcelona manager
- Memphis Depay scored for Barca from the penalty spot
While FC Barcelona looked sharp in transition and on the ball, the Catalonian club needed a dodgy penalty call to secure a gritty 1-0 victory over Espanyol in Xavi Hernandez's first game in charge on Saturday in La Liga.
During the anticipated return of Barcelona's prodigal son, the crowd of 74,000 at Camp Nou chanted "Xavi! Xavi!" in the sixth minute in honour of the jersey number Barcelona's midfield maestro wore for 17 seasons when he helped Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta forge one of football’s greatest sides.
Xavi was hired two weeks ago before the international break when Ronald Koeman was let go after one too many painful defeats. Back after six years of playing and coaching in Qatar, the man now hopes to restore the team to greatness after years of decline.
Throughout the first half, Barcelona pressed Espanyol out of the game, however, failed to convert the half-chances that fell their way. Xavi opted to start Gavi Paez, Memphis Depay, along with 17-year-old debutant Ilias Akhomach Chakkour in the front three. The troika combined well in the final third but failed to create clear cut chances.
However, two minutes into the second half of the Catalan derby, Depay scored for Barcelona. After a vital ball from Gavi, the Netherlands striker scored a penalty he had earned.
Espanyol had two fantastic chances to score a late equaliser after scarcely touching the ball in the first half. Before Raul de Tomas' header struck the post, replacement Landy Dimata headed wide from close range.
With the victory, Barcelona have now catapulted to sixth place in the Spanish league, eight points behind leader Sevilla and second-place Real Sociedad.
Earlier in the night, former Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic’s stoppage-time goal lifted Sevilla to the top of the table after fighting back for a 2-2 home draw with Alaves.