Pique silences Espanyol critics to keep Barca unbeaten

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BARCELONA (Reuters) – Gerard Pique headed home a late equaliser for Barcelona against Catalan rivals Espanyol to earn his side a 1-1 draw in Cornella and maintain their unbeaten La Liga record on Sunday.

The defender, whistled throughout after making provocative comments which upset Espanyol fans after 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 threw Messi on in the second half as 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 Barcelona but Pique had the final say to move his side provisionally 12 points clear at the top of the table.