MADRID - Barcelona extended their lead at the top of Spanish soccer's La Liga yesterday as they overcame stiff resistance from Espanyol to win the Catalan derby 1-0 at the Camp Nou.
Alexis Sanchez scored the only goal midway through the second half when he tapped home Neymar's pinpoint cross to score for the third consecutive game.
However, it was another frustrating night for Lionel Messi as he failed to score for a fourth consecutive match.
Barca lead second-placed Atletico Madrid by four points and Real Madrid by nine with both sides from the capital having played one game less.
The hosts were almost back to full strength after resting a host of first-team regulars for the 3-0 win over Celta Vigo in midweek as Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Neymar all returned to the side, while Martin Montoya deputised for the injured Adriano at left-back.
But it was the visitors who had the best chance of the half when Victor Sanchez snuck in behind Dani Alves and Victor Valdes had to race from his line to turn the midfielder's effort behind.
Brazilian Neymar unlocked the Espanyol defence as his wonderful low cross between the legs of two defenders left Sanchez with the simplest of finishes at the back post to register his seventh goal of the season.