Ernesto Valverde pleased with Barcelona's point at Espanyol in challenging conditions

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde aimed criticism at a sodden pitch as Gerard Pique scored a late header to salvage a draw for runaway La Liga leaders Barcelona at city rivals Espanyol, keeping their bid for an unbeaten campaign on track.

Valverde’s men were in danger of falling to their first league defeat of the season when Gerard Moreno nodded the hosts ahead midway through the second half, but centre-back Pique met a Lionel Messi corner in the 82nd minute to snatch a point.

Barcelona are now 12 points clear at the top of the table from Atletico Madrid, who host third-placed Valencia later on Sunday.

The match was played in pouring rain and Valverde slammed the “dangerous” pitch.

“Even though it was raining, we thought that the pitch would hold, but then we saw that the grass was not going to hold up and that the pitch was becoming dangerous,” the Barcelona coach said.

“On our passes from defence the ball could get stuck in a puddle and that’s why things got difficult.

“We give a lot of value to this draw, because it was hard to get because of this scenario and because it’s a derby and we didn’t want to lose.”

The five-time European champions also set a new club record of 22 matches unbeaten to start a league season on Sunday, and are still in the hunt for a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble.

“We are still up there (top of the table). The conditions for them and for us were not the best, but it was an entertaining game,” Barca captain Andres Iniesta told BeIn Sports.

They were far from at their fluent best against a stubborn Espanyol whose point drags them eight clear of the relegation zone, although Philippe Coutinho came close to scoring his first goal since joining from Liverpool last month when he struck the crossbar in the first half.

Faltering champions Real Madrid are 19 points adrift of arch rivals Barca in fourth, after throwing away two points in a 2-2 draw at Levante on Saturday.

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Deportivo La Coruna sack coach Cristobal Parralo

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Deportivo La Coruna sacked their coach Cristobal Parralo on Sunday with the club rooted in the relegation zone on the back of a poor run of results.

After a 5-0 thrashing at Real Sociedad on Friday the Liga club’s directors decided to swing the axe on Parralo’s short reign even though he only took over from Pepe Mel in November.

The defeat at San Sebastian, just along Spain’s northern coast from the Galician port of La Coruna, was a seventh game without a win for Deportivo.

The club have been in decline for the past decade after a mini golden era when they won the Spanish league in 2000 and the cup in 2001 with Dutch striker Roy Makaay as spearhead and iconic Brazilian centre-back Mauro Silva as captain.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Ronaldo fails in front of goal and other stats as Real Madrid draw at Levante

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Cristiano Ronaldo has scored just eight La Liga goals this season.

La Liga strugglers Levante struck a late equaliser to condemn Real Madrid to another frustrating draw on Saturday night.

The Whites had twice held the lead at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia through goals from Sergio Ramos and Isco but Giampaolo Pazzini’s last-gasp leveller earned the hosts a share of the spoils.

Here’s a look at some damning Real Madrid stats:

— Real Madrid have dropped more points (24) in 21 La Liga matches this season than they did during their entire league-winning 2016-17 campaign (21).

— Los Blancos are 18 points behind table-toppers and eternal rivals Barcelona.

— Levante remain unbeaten in both La Liga clashes against the Whites this term, with the 2-2 draw following on from a 1-1 result between the two teams at the Bernabeu in September 2017.

— Star man Cristiano Ronaldo was hooked by Zinedine Zidane with eight minutes remaining in the match as Levante scored their second goal just seven minutes later.

— However, you couldn’t really question the Frenchman’s decision to sub Ronaldo given the club legend had seven shots on goal (two on target) and was a fading influence with just 47 touches during his 82 minutes.

— Real have failed to record a clean sheet in their past six La Liga matches.

— Saturday night’s result was the Spanish giants’ sixth draw of the season, combined with four defeats.

— Madrid are only two points clear of fifth-placed Villarreal in the hunt for Champions League qualification – something few people would have predicted at the start of the season.

Stats compiled using Opta and WhoScored.

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