BARCELONA // The Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola preferred to focus on his side's dramatic comeback in the 2-1 derby win over Espanyol rather than the crowd trouble that marred the game, forcing the players off the pitch for 10 minutes in the second half. Lionel Messi struck a penalty winner in the 10th minute of injury time in the last ever Primera Liga Catalan derby at Montjuic.
Barca found it tough going against their city rivals even though Espanyol played the second half with only 10 men following Nene's red card, but Thierry Henry's 84th-minute equaliser combined with Messi's late winner, after the Cameroon striker Samuel Eto'o was felled, earned the visiting side victory. Guardiola felt his team deserved the three points. He said: "The team played an extraordinary first half, despite still lacking a killer instinct in front of goal.
"In the second half, with 10 men, Espanyol played further back. In the end we had the luck that we had lacked for most of the rest of the game." He added: "It was a very good derby. I want to congratulate my players and those of Espanyol, who had a plan at the start of the game which surprised me." Guardiola also hit out at those responsible for the problems in the stands, where flares were thrown in the direction of the home fans forcing some to spill onto the pitch to escape the smoke. "It's an uneducated thing to do and I hope things like that don't happen again. We are the first to denounce these types of situations," he said.
Barca full-back Daniel Alves added: "We shouldn't talk about this because it gives importance to something that has no place in football. Football is something to enjoy." Villarreal stay top of the league and Sporting Gijon remain bottom after Manuel Pellegrini's side secured a narrow 1-0 victory against the promoted outfit. Giuseppe Rossi scored the only goal of the game after 64 minutes in a match which Sporting had largely dominated.
The Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini admitted his side rode their luck, saying: "In the world of football you cannot talk of justice, only of goals and we had them and Sporting didn't." The champions Real Madrid also came from behind, with a stoppage-time strike from Ruud van Nistelrooy clinching a 2-1 victory over Real Betis after both teams were reduced to 10 men. Gabriel Heinze, had given Madrid the lead but the visitors' night turned bleak when Sergio Garcia equalised and Marcelo was sent off. But Garcia was himself red-carded, after notching his first goal for the club, and Van Nistelrooy stole the points to ensure Madrid's fourth successive win.
Van Nistelrooy praised his side. he said: "I like our mentality. We played well in the first half and we suffered with a player less in the second. We all gave a little more of ourselves when Betis were stronger." * With agencies