Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Pique equalizer silences Espanyol fans

AP, MADRID

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, center, vies for the ball with RCD Espanyol’s Victor Sanchez, left, in their La Liga match at RCDE Stadium in Cornella Llobregat, Spain, on Sunday.

Photo: AP

Jeered from his first touch of the ball, Barcelona defender Gerard Pique on Sunday found a way to silence the RCD Espanyol fans in the Catalan derby.

Pique scored a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw as the league leaders narrowly avoided losing to their crosstown rivals for the second time in less than three weeks.

The outspoken Pique celebrated by putting a finger in front of his mouth as if to tell the crowd to be quiet.

“We have a responsibility as players, but we are also humans and we react to what happens,” Pique said. “Part of the crowd was insulting my family. There is a limit to everything.”

Pique had previously made comments criticizing Espanyol and the crowd showed their disapproval by jeering him nearly every time he touched the ball.

His 82nd-minute goal helped Barcelona extend their unbeaten streak in La Liga to 22 matches, surpassing the record set under former coach Pep Guardiola in 2009-2010.

It also left Barcelona nine points in front of Atletico Madrid, who defeated third-placed Valencia 1-0 in the late match.

Gerard Moreno put Espanyol ahead midway through the second half and Pique equalized with a header in a heated match at RCDE Stadium.

“These types of situations motivate Pique,” Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said. “His gesture comes as part of the rivalry that is natural in a derby.”

Espanyol had ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Jan. 17, when Messi missed a penalty-kick.

Barcelona eventually eliminated Espanyol by winning the second leg 2-0.

After that match, Pique’s tone when talking about Espanyol infuriated their fans and prompted an official complaint by the club.

Pique did not back down on Sunday, questioning Espanyol’s links to Barcelona because it moved its base to nearby Cornella and has a foreign owner.

Right after the goal, Moreno fouled the defender, prompting a heated altercation between players from both teams.

Moreno had to be contained as he tried to go after Pique.

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