Luis Suarez chipped in with a cheeky assist as Barcelona beat Espanyol in the Catalan Super Cup thanks to a penalty shootout, but is still searching for his first goal in Spain.
The former Liverpool striker started the game in the centre of the attack but buzzed around the front in his usual waspish fashion, setting up the opener for Gerard Pique.
Barely 15 minutes had passed when the ball reached Suarez on the left-hand side of the box. He eyed up the target but instead of pulling the trigger, scooped the ball up to the back post where Pique had roamed forward, and the defender headed home.
Luis Enrique’s side, a blend of first-teamers and youth players, were largely in control but a brilliant Anaitz Arbilla free-kick pegged them back and in the end they had to rely on a spot-kick triumph.
This was not the triumphant bounce-back rout they were hoping for after a humiliating defeat by Real Madrid in El Clasico last weekend.
The Catalan Super Cup has a long history, but this is the first time it has been contested in this format. Usually there is a knock-out tournament including some of the smaller sides, but fixture congestion means that it has been converted into a one-off final between the two La Liga sides from Catalonia.
In the eighth minute Suarez should have scored his first Barcelona goal when the ball was cleverly crossed in to him near the penalty spot by Sergi Roberto. The Uruguayan headed towards Pau Lopez’s net, but could not generate enough power to beat the young goalkeeper, who still had to make a smart save.
Suarez turned his hand to creating instead, which he proved pretty good at on Saturday in the Santiago Bernabeu. The forward turned in the area and dinked the ball up for Pique to nod into an empty net after 16 minutes.
Those two players turned in completely different performances during the 3-1 defeat by Real Madrid. Pique conceded a penalty, which was the nadir of a terrible display, while Suarez was lively and didn’t look like he’d spent the previous four months frozen out of action.
There were some concerns that adding another huge name to Barcelona’s collection of attacking talent might not work, that Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar would be too selfish a front line. But Suarez set up Neymar’s goal against Madrid and also put one on a plate for Messi, who astonishingly missed.
He drove into the box after 22 minutes but was blocked off as he tried to move towards goal, and also fired a free-kick over the bar as he searched for his first goal in Blaugrana first team shirt. Suarez had previously notched two in a friendly for Barcelona B against Indonesia U19s.
Adriano had a low drive well fielded by Pau, the Brazilian starting in place of his rested compatriot Dani Alves at right-back. Martin Montoya was on the bench and is clearly not in the good books of Asturian manager Luis Enrique.
He didn’t do much to help proceedings after being brought on at half-time and subsequently conceding a free-kick on the edge of the box. Arbilla – the player who Gareth Bale made cry last season while the defender played for Rayo Vallecano – stepped up and arrowed it into the top corner.
Espanyol had created nothing at all prior to their goal, bar one chance on the 40 minute mark, when Victor Alvarez broke free of Marc Bartra and Gerard Pique. The defenders looked unsure of their positions but goalkeeper Jordi Masip acted with considerably more conviction, coming out of his goal to deny the striker.
Suarez now has two assists in two games for Barcelona, after making his debut against Real Madrid on Saturday
Barcelona tried to get back in front and introduced Xavi Hernandez and Ivan Rakitic to patrol the midfield – and both ended up converting in the shootout. They nearly worked an opening for starlet Munir El Haddadi, but he fell short as he stretched to try and poke home from close range.
The youngster started the season in sensational form but recently has fallen behind fellow youngster Sandro Ramirez, who looks a burlier and more physically adept presence as part of the forward line. The likelihood is now that both of them will be spending more time with the B team, as Suarez beds in up top with Neymar and Messi.
Masip earned his corn towards the end, with an excellent one-handed stop to prevent Espanyol netting a late winner, while at the other end Rakitic hit a drive which was milimetres wide of the top left corner, almost preventing penalties.
And of Suarez, who was taken off at half time? His attention has already turned away from this game at Girona’s minute Estadi Montilivi and to the Nou Camp, where this coming Saturday he hopes to finally open his Barcelona account against Celta Vigo.
Suarez celebrates after setting up Neymar for Barcelona’s first goal against Real Madrid on Saturday at the Bernabeu
Source: Dailymail UK');