Pique silences critics to keep Barca unbeaten at Espanyol


Gerard Pique headed home a late equaliser for FC Barcelona against Catalan rivals Espanyol to earn his side a 1-1 draw in Cornella on Sunday.

The draw helped the Spanish La Liga leaders maintain their unbeaten La Liga record.

Pique, who was whistled throughout for making provocative comments which upset Espanyol fans after FC Barcelona knocked their rivals out of the King’s Cup in January, buried Lionel Messi’s free kick.

Ernesto Valverde had started the Argentine on the bench as he rotated his side.

But he threw Messi on in the second half as FC Barcelona struggled to break down a stubborn Espanyol on a waterlogged pitch in driving rain.

Gerard Moreno headed home Sergio Garcia’s inch-perfect cross in the 66th minute to give Espanyol hope of repeating their King’s Cup first-leg win over FC Barcelona.

But Pique had the final say to move his side provisionally 12 points clear at the top of the table.

FC Barcelona have now gone a club record 22 league games unbeaten, surpassing the total of 21 they managed under Pep Guardiola in the 2009-10 season.

“We were not able to take the three points but the conditions weren’t the best,” FC Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta said.

“It was an entertaining derby. I wouldn’t say the pitch affected us too much, we adapted well.

“There were waterlogged zones but we made a great effort and came back from 1-0 down.”

Espanyol saw off their arch-rivals by one goal in the first leg of the King’s Cup quarter-final but could not repeat the trick here.

The visitors fought back as they did in the second part of the Cup tie.

After eliminating Espanyol Pique mocked them.

He had said that following their move to a new stadium in 2009 they were now a team from Cornella, on the outskirts of Barcelona, rather than from the city itself.

Espanyol later reported his comments to Spanish football’s anti-violence committee.

However Pique was the winner this time, with his late goal frustrating the hosts in their bid to climb the table and move out of danger.(Reuters/NAN)