Espanyol 1-1 Barcelona: Gerard Pique header preserves visitors' unbeaten record
By Ben Grounds
Last Updated: 04/02/18 11:18pm
Gerard Pique scored a late equaliser for Barcelona to salvage a 1-1 draw against Espanyol and extend his side's unbeaten La Liga record.
Gerard Moreno met Sergio Garcia's cross (66) to give the hosts the lead in torrential conditions at the RCDE Stadium after a first half in which Philippe Coutinho struck the crossbar.
Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde brought Lionel Messi off the substitutes' bench and his free-kick was headed in by Pique with eight minutes remaining.
Barca's lead at the top of La Liga remains at nine points after second-placed Atletico Madrid defeated Valencia 1-0 later on Sunday.
Espanyol: D. Lopez (6), Navarro (7), Aaron (6), V. Sanchez (7), Naldo (7), Jurado (6), D. Lopez (6), Granero (7), Dardar (6), Moreno (7), Baptistao (7)
Subs: Garcia (7), Sanchez (6), J. Lopez (6)
Barcelona: Ter Stegen (6), Semedo (6), Pique (7), Umtiti (6), Digne (6), Busquets (7), Iniesta (7), Paulinho (6), Alcacer (6), Coutinho (6), Suarez (7).
Subs: Messi (7), Alba (6), Roberto (6)
Man of the match: Gerard Pique
Barcelona came close to breaking the deadlock after 11 minutes but Luis Suarez was unable to direct Andres Iniesta's cross beyond Diego Lopez before Coutinho rattled the crossbar with a trademark right-footed strike having cut in from the left.
Espanyol grew into the contest and had their first sight of goal after an uncharacteristic lapse in concentration from Iniesta allowed Leo Baptistao to fire straight at Marc-Ande Ter Stegen.
Baptistao rounded Ter Stegen within two minutes of the second half but after Esteban Granero converted his cut-back, the referee ruled the goal out after the ball drifted just out of play.
Espanyol made three changes as Oscar Duarte was replaced by Naldo while Jose Jurado and Sergi Dardar came in for Mario Hermoso and Sergio Garcia. Barcelona made six changes: Lionel Messi and Jasper Cillessen were replaced by Paco Alcacer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen while Nelson Semedo came in for Sergi Roberto. Jordi Alba was replaced by Lucas Digne while Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho replaced Aleix Vidal and Ivan Rakitic.
The incident sparked Valverde into summoning Messi from the bench, but within seven minutes of his introduction, Barcelona fell behind.
Granero won the ball in midfield before finding Garcia in space down the right, and after Lucas Digne failed to close him down, the veteran winger swung in the perfect cross beyond Pique for Moreno to stoop and head beneath Ter Stegen.
Barcelona went more direct in the closing stages, throwing Pique forward as an emergency striker in the final 10 minutes and the tactical switch paid dividends.
Garcia's foul on Samuel Umtiti allowed Messi to cross for the Spain defender to head home and stretch Barcelona's unbeaten league record to 22 games this season.
Man of the match: Gerard Pique
From the very first minute of this bad-tempered Catalan derby, Pique was jeered every time he touched the ball by the home supporters, but he shrugged off losing Gerard Moreno for the hosts' opener to have the final laugh.
The defender atoned for his error in style, rising to meet Lionel Messi's free-kick and head in his second La Liga goal of the season with his other strike coming against the same opponents.
Leo Baptistao and Moreno caused problems for the Barcelona defence but Pique stood up to the challenge in monsoon conditions to rescue a point for his side.
Espanyol travel to face Celta Vigo next Sunday in their next La Liga match while Barcelona now turn their attention to he second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia.
They face Getafe at the Nou Camp next Sunday, live on Sky Sports Football.