February 4, 2018 / 7:09 PM / in 7 months

Pique defends celebration after 'special' goal against Espanyol

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Gerard Pique said shushing Espanyol fans with a finger to his lips after scoring was the least he could have done while celebrating the goal which earned Barcelona a 1-1 draw in La Liga on Sunday.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Espanyol vs FC Barcelona - RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain - February 4, 2018 Barcelona’s Gerard Pique celebrates with Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez after scoring their first goal REUTERS/Albert Gea

The defender headed home Lionel Messi’s free kick in the 82nd minute to preserve the league leaders’ 22-game unbeaten run, a club record, tying a spiky derby clash at the waterlogged RCDE Stadium in Cornella.

Pique had been berated throughout by Espanyol fans for his comments after Barcelona eliminated their local rivals in the King’s Cup quarter-finals in January.

A long-time hate figure for Espanyol supporters, Pique stoked the fire by referring to them as ‘Espanyol de Cornella’ multiple times.

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Espanyol vs FC Barcelona - RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Spain - February 4, 2018 Barcelona’s Luis Suarez in action with Espanyol’s David Lopez REUTERS/Albert Gea

Espanyol moved to their new stadium in the town near Barcelona in 2009 after previously playing at the Olympic Stadium in Catalonia’s capital.

“They are from Cornella, like I said the other day,” said Pique. “I know it hurt them and I used sarcasm to annoy them.

“Saying they play in Cornella is not disrespectful, it’s a fact. They complain about that and report me, but they don’t investigate insults towards my family. That is disrespectful. Telling them to be quiet was the least I could do.”

Espanyol supporters had hurled abuse at the defender and his pop star partner Shakira during the King’s Cup first leg at Cornella, which the hosts won 1-0.

After Pique scored on Sunday he ran off in celebration before approaching a stand packed with Espanyol supporters and putting his finger to his lips.

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“Celebrating the goal was special after everything that’s happened in the last week,” added Pique.

“Some of the fans here have been directing insults at me and my family for a long while. I know a lot of Espanyol fans that are good people but those at the top don’t report those insulting chants.

“We are people and we have a limit. It’s a derby game and it is what it is.”

Espanyol midfielder Esteban Granero was not impressed with Pique’s celebration.

“When you provoke people you can’t later ask for respect,” Granero told reporters. “Before the gesture it was a model game. Later it was more wild. Everybody must take responsibility for their actions.”

Editing by Clare Fallon

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