Gerard Pique salvaged a 1-1 draw for La Liga leaders when they took on Espanyol in the Catalan Derby on Sunday, keeping their bid for an unbeaten campaign on track.
Barcelona was in danger of falling to their first La Liga defeat of the season when Gerard Moreno nodded the hosts ahead midway through the second half of the game. But Espanyol’s happiness was short-lived as Gerard Pique headed a corner from Lionel Messi in the 82nd minute of the game to snatch a point.
Barcelona is now 9 points clear at the top of the table from Atletico Madrid, who won 1-0 against Valencia later on Sunday. The match was played in pouring rain and Valverde slammed the “dangerous” pitch. In the aftermath of his Cornella comments regarding Quique Sanchez Flores’ team, Pique was greeted with loud boos and jeers whenever he was involved in any action during the Catalan derby.
And those whistles and jeers only grew as he netted the equalizer and celebrated with a finger raised to his lips for a strike which saw him scoring his fourth goal at the RCDE Stadium. Earlier when Barcelona faced Espanyol in the quarterfinals of Copa del Rey, Pique referred to Barcelona’s neighbor as Espanyol de Cornella – a suburb of the Barcelona metropolitan area – rather than referring to them as Espanyol de Barcelona.
The comment did not go down well with Espanyol, who put in a complaint to the Spanish Football Federation, and Pique was in the center of many waves of abuse from the stands on Sunday. Ernesto Valverde believes that those abuses played a key role in getting the best out of Pique.
When asked about Pique’s performance and his controversial celebration, Valverde said: “It was a difficult match for him because of the previous tension. I think that these scenarios motivate him and he gives the best of himself. We are happy with how we have responded to how the afternoon was going.
As the game progressed, you could play less and we have become accustomed to the circumstances. The game was played by us in the first half but with the rain, when the ball started to stop, the field became dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Espanyol’s manager Quique Sanchez Flores believes that Pique’s celebration would not quieten the vociferous home support. When quizzed about Pique’s celebration, Flores said: “A player can not silence supporters and less so ours. Gestures are gestures, and there they are. But the fans of Espanyol are far above, and will know how to be in the coming days.”
"My celebration was disrespectful? After all the things Espanyol fans have said to me and my family, it's the least I could do." – Gerard Piqué pic.twitter.com/LgY5VczHOt
— . (@PlQUECHU) February 4, 2018
With 90 minutes away from being in the finals of Copa del Rey, Valverde started Messi on the bench and introduced him shortly before the clock touched an hour mark. When asked about why Leo Messi was started on the bench, Valverde said: “Leo has a lot of games in a row and we have to be a little careful, we usually do it with all the players. It was not conditioned by the field or the rain.
He’s had a lot of games in a row. We had a lot of games in January and there are many things ahead of us.”
I personally feel that Pique’s celebration was justified after so much was said about him and his family. The abuses would have surely played a crucial role in getting the best out of Pique.