Sunday 26 January 2020

Barca let lead slip as Balotelli hits out at Lazio fans over abuse

European round-up

Mario Balotelli. Photo: Getty Images
Mario Balotelli. Photo: Getty Images

Barcelona's two-point lead in the Spanish title race evaporated on Saturday night as Chinese striker Wu Lei snatched a late equaliser for rivals Espanyol in a 2-2 draw.

Espanyol entered the game at the bottom of the La Liga table, winless at home all season and without a derby win in the league since 2009. But despite the odds, it was Espanyol who took a surprise first-half lead thanks to David Lopez heading the ball home, completely unmarked on the penalty spot, from a set-piece.

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Barcelona seemed to reclaim control as second-half goals from Luis Suarez and Arturo Vidal had them 2-1 in front on the hour mark. But their grip on the game was loosened by Frenkie de Jong, who fouled Jonathan Calleri after losing possession, earning him his second booking of the evening in the 75th minute to leave Barca with 10 men.

Matias Vargas' spellbinding pass unlocked the Barca defence, releasing substitute Wu who excellently finished to the bottom left to give his side, now under the stewardship of their third manager of the season, a much-needed morale boost.

Earlier that day, a Rafael Varane brace helped Real Madrid end their three-game winless run in a 3-0 win away to fellow Madrilenians Getafe. The French defender's first goal was originally marked as an own goal by goalkeeper David Soria, who seemed to punch the ball into his own net. The results leave Barcelona and Real Madrid both on 40 points, the former ahead on goal difference.

Atletico Madrid's 2-1 win at home to Levante puts them on top of the chasing pack, the victory being their third in a row. Sevilla's 1-1 draw at home to Athletic Bilbao leaves them in fourth place on 35 points, behind Atletico on goal difference.

Elsewhere, Serie A kicked off 2020 mired in controversy after yesterday's match between Brescia and Lazio was halted due to complaints made by Mario Balotelli of racist chants coming from the travelling crowd.

A stadium announcement came after 30 minutes urging fans not to sing discriminatory songs, adding that play would be suspended if the songs continued.

"Lazio fans present at the stadium today, shame on you," he wrote on Instagram, adding the hashtag #saynotoracism.

The former Manchester City striker had put Brescia 1-0 up against the Romans in the 18th minute, but Lazio walked away winners as a Ciro Immobile brace helped them carve out a 2-1 victory after Brescia were reduced to 10 men.

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