The Chinese Wu Lei attacks late when Espanyol has the Barcelona of 10 men

Madrid, January 5 (AFP) Barcelona was linked by the League club, Espanyol, when Wu Lei attacked late to ensure a dramatic 2-2 draw in an exciting Catalan derby.

Luis Suarez seemed to have inspired another change in the RCDE stadium on Saturday after he canceled David López's first game with a skillful half volley before digging up an exquisite pass for the substitute Arturo Vidal to finish.

But a red card for Frenkie de Jong in the absence of 16 minutes gave Espanyol a renewed hope and Chinese striker Wu emerged as a hero, shooting substitute goalkeeper Neto to rescue a point in the first game by Abelardo Fernández.

The expulsion of De Jong hurt us, said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde.

We could have scored a third and then, on a play, we conceded. We had the game under control. The red card disturbed us a little.

Barcelona remains the first of the table, but only by goal difference, their two-point advantage eliminated after Real Madrid achieved an impressive 3-0 victory at Getafe.

Atlético de Madrid rose to third place after beating Levante 2-1.

Espanyol has not beaten its local rivals in the league since 2009 and they are still four points behind the security, however, this performance should work wonders for morale.

They will expect another rescue mission from new coach Abelardo, who took over Alaves with six points out of 13 games in 2018 and took them to 14th.

This can be a turning point, he said. But we have to compete like today because it won't be easy.

- Defensive problems -

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Barça now changes its attention to the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia next week, where a Classic final awaits if Real Madrid beat Valencia in the last four and can beat Atlético.

But Valverde will have much to reflect on after the defensive problems again weakened his team against the strongest attack in the league.

Lopez was not marked when he headed for Marc Roca's cross in the 23rd minute, while at the other end the chances were few and far between, with Lionel Messi going closer with a header on the back post.

Vidal entered at halftime for Ivan Rakitic and Suarez worked his magic, moving his foot perfectly to deflect Jordi Alba's cross inside the near post before choosing Vidal to put the 2-1 nine minutes later.

De Jong received a second yellow card for pulling Jonathan Calleri's shirt, but Barcelona was in command until minute 88 when Wu hit.

Released by an excellent reverse pass from Matias Vargas, the 28-year-old crossed Neto and reached the far corner.

Espanyol could even have won it in time of injury when Calleri ran free, only to shoot with two free teammates inside him.

- Madrid catches Barça -

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Real Madrid had a more impressive start in its year by choosing a solid side of Getafe, even without the suspended Sergio Ramos and the injured Eden Hazard.

Raphael Varane was the instigator of two goals in the Alfonso Pérez Coliseum, first pressing David Soria of Getafe in a failed blow and a goal in his own goal, before heading home with a center of Toni Kroos.

I am happy with his performance, but it is especially important when Sergio Ramos is not there, having another leader, said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

Luka Modric added a third deep time in injury time after a brilliant first pass from Gareth Bale had driven Madrid away in the counterattack.

Thibaut Courtois seems to be finally finding his best form after a difficult start since his summer move from Chelsea, making three strong saves before Varane's second gave space to Madrid's breathing.

He saved us two or three times in the first half, it was key, said Zidane.

Atletico fought for goals this season, but scored two in five minutes in the Wanda Metropolitano when Angel Correa converted the Kieran Trippier crossing in the 13th minute before Felipe Monteiro added a second in the 18th. In the middle, Levante also matched through Roger Marti and could have snatched a point at the end just for Jan Oblak to produce a brilliant salvation to deny Enis Bardhi. AFP SSC SSC

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