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Espanyol stuns Barça 1-0 in Copa quarters

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Cornella de Llobregat (Spain), Jan 18: Espanyol handed FC Barcelona a rare loss in the first leg of their Copa del Rey football quarter-final, getting a goal from Oscar Melendo in the 89th minute to pull off the 1-0 upset here.

The city rivals of the Catalan giants scarcely looked to attack during the first half although the game at RCDE Stadium on Wednesday remained scoreless due to Barça's lack of offensive precision, reports Efe.

The visitors forced a corner kick in the early going on a long blast by Sergio Busquets that Espanyol goalie Diego Lopez tipped away. The host net minder later corralled a shot on goal in the 22nd minute by Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who was far from his normal brilliance.

Barça's best scoring opportunity of the first half came in the 44th minute on a shot by Spanish striker Denis Suarez that went just wide of the left upright.

After the intermission, Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde looked to inject some more life into his team by inserting Luis Suarez in the 58th minute, and Barça's insistence in attack paid off two minutes later when Espanyol midfielder Esteban Granero fouled Sergi Roberto in the area.

Messi did the honours on the spot kick, but he was denied by a diving Lopez in a momentum-shifting play.

Quique Sanchez Flores' men appeared to ride the euphoria of their fans, entering Barça's territory more regularly and forcing net minder Jasper Cillessen to stop a David Lopez header and later dive to get a hand on a free kick by Marc Navarro in the 82nd minute.

Espanyol finally was rewarded for their ambition with an expertly constructed goal in the 89th minute.

The play started with Victor Sanchez sending a perfect pass down the right side to Navarro, who ran the ball down and then found midfielder Melendo, whose left-footed shot travelled out of the reach of Cillessen and just inside the far post.

For Espanyol, the win ended a 10-season drought without a home victory over its crosstown rival, while Barça suffered its first loss since a 0-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup last August.

The second leg of the Espanyol-Barça Copa del Rey quarter-final clash will be played on January 25, at Camp Nou.

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