Spanish La Liga Report, Espanyol v Barcelona, 4 February 2018

Jonathan Hernandez
February 5, 2018

MADRID (AP) - Gerard Pique scored a late equalizer for Barcelona in a 1-1 draw at Espanyol on Sunday as the Spanish league leader narrowly avoided losing to its crosstown rival for the second time in less than three weeks.

Cornella is a suburb of Barcelona, where the club's Cornella-El Prat stadium is based, and Pique's implication was that Espanyol do not deserve to be considered Barca's rivals.

Following a fairly mellow first-half, the contest sparked into life in the second, with Gerard Moreno opening the scoring for the hosts via a bullet header shortly after the hour mark, before Gerard Pique responded in kind with less than 10 minutes to secure a share of the spoils.

With only eight minutes left, defender Pique headed home substitute Lionel Messi's free-kick.

After the German's fairly comfortable stop, aside from a Luis Suarez free-kick which skimmed the roof of the net on its way behind, there was little of note in the final 20 minutes of the first-half, with both sides heading into their respective dressing rooms with the scores equal.

"Celebrating the goal was special after everything that's happened in the last week", Pique told reporters after the game.

"I wouldn't say it was hard for us to adapt to the pitch".

"Some of the fans here have been directing insults at me and my family for a long while. That is disrespectful. Telling them to be quiet was the least I could do". I know it hurt them and I used sarcasm to annoy them but saying they play in Cornella is not disrespectful, it's a fact. I know a lot of Espanyol fans that are good people but those at the top don't report those insulting chants.

The match was played in pouring rain and Valverde slammed the "dangerous" pitch.

Two goals from Cristhian Stuani gave Girona a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao - a result which lifts them up to ninth place, just two points behind sixth-placed Sevilla. Thomas Vermaelen and Andre Gomes are still doubts for the weekend for Ernesto Valverde's side.

"On our passes from defence the ball could get stuck in a puddle and that's why things got hard".

"It was one of the most exciting games", coach Quique Sanchez Flores said.

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