Martino dedicates Barca derby victory to injured keeper Valdes
Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino dedicated Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Espanyol to injured goalkeeper Victor Valdes.
The hosts fiercely contested the award of a 76th-minute penalty for a handball against defender Javi Lopez, but Lionel Messi calmly dispatched the spot-kick past goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who was then sent off for handling another shot from the Argentina forward outside his area.
The win saw Barca temporarily take over top spot in the Primera Division standings, although Atletico Madrid’s 2-1 triumph at Athletic Bilbao later took Los Rojiblancos back to the summit.
Martino was delighted to see his side come away from a match which had "a lot of friction and many interruptions" with all three points.
"We were expecting a game like this," he said at his post-match press conference.
"Espanyol’s pressure improved (after the first 15 minutes) and we had to resort to longer passes. Espanyol are very well prepared to take control of follow-up plays."
A hugely positive week for Barca, including a 4-3 Clasico success at Real Madrid and a 3-0 win over Celta Vigo, was somewhat overshadowed by the news Valdes, who is leaving the Nou Camp in the summer, has played his last game for the club after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament against Celta.
"We want to dedicate this victory to him," Martino said.
Looking ahead to his team’s remaining fixtures, the Argentinian continued: "I see one good thing and one bad thing. The good thing is that derbies are always derbies and they have to be won. It was a risky away game.
"On the other hand, we still have very difficult (games) that are very important. We have seven finals left and we haven’t forgotten about our away game to Valladolid – we don’t want to commit the same errors.
"I think it’s important for the players to remember where we were six days ago and where we are now."
Much of the post-match talk centered around the controversial spot-kick award – something which clearly irked Martino.
"From 10,000km away it seems as though football is what’s talked about after matches," he said. "I think it’s lamentable that we don’t talk more about football and I’m certain that today we won’t talk about football either."