Speaking the Nations Mind

Espanyol 1-1 Barcelona: Pique Header Preserves Visitors’ Unbeaten Record

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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.

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.

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.

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