Barcelona kicked off matchday 31 of the Liga BBVA with a 1-0 away win in the Catalan derby against RCD Espanyol. Thanks to a Lionel Messi goal, the Argentine's 23rd of the season, the blaugrana picked up a valuable win that moves them into first place for the time being.
The first half in the Cornellà-El Prat was a blistering affair, with both sides playing at a very high tempo. It was the home side that enjoyed the earliest chances, with Pizzi and Sergio García both standing out. However, the best chance before the break fell to the visitors when Dani Alves found Neymar with a great cross, but the Brazilian striker was unable to keep his shot down and the sides went into the dressing rooms all square.
The second half was just as evenly contested as the first, with both teams intent on taking all three points. After a Gerard Piqué effort came off the woodwork, Barcelona were finally awarded for their persistence in the 77th minute. Messi made no mistake from the penalty spot, and the Argentine’s goal was enough to earn Gerardo Martino's men a valuable win that keeps their title hopes alive. Towards the end of the game Javi López replaced Kiko Casilla between the sticks, after the keeper received a red card, and impressed with two fine saves.