BARCELONA – FC Barcelona defender Girard Pique scored a late goal on Sunday to lead his team to a 1-1 away draw against Espanyol in the 22nd round of La Liga play.
Gerard Moreno got Espanyol on the scoreboard 66 minutes into the match, while Pique scored the equalizer with eight minutes to go before the second-half stoppage time, keeping Barça undefeated in La Liga.
Espanyol earned its first point in the last three matches, after losing to Leganes and Sevilla in the previous two rounds.
The home team changed its strategy, compared to the last two matches against Barcelona, rushing on the attack, but Espanyol posed no real danger to the visitors’ goal.
Initially, Barcelona, with Argentine star Lionel Messi on the bench, struggled to threaten Espanyol’s goal, but as the hosts eased up their pressure, Barça played more comfortably.
Former Espanyol player Philippe Coutinho had Barcelona’s first chance, blasting a shot into the cross bar in the 22nd minute.
The home team reacted immediately, with Leo Baptistao firing a shot that goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen blocked.
With 15 minutes to go before the first-half stoppage time, Espanyol had more opportunities, especially from Baptistao, without being able to break the scoreless deadlock.
Baptistao’s momentum continued after the break, scoring a goal that the official annulled.
Despite taking control, Barcelona missed Messi, who was brought in 13 minutes into the second half.
Just nine minutes later, however, Moreno scored Espanyol’s first goal with a header off Sergio Garcia’s cross.
Seeking more depth, Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde brought in Jordi Alba with the rain affecting Messi and Luis Suarez’s performance.
During the last 10 minutes, Espanyol took its foot off the gas, opening the door for Barcelona to push them with long balls, crosses and corner kicks.
Pique managed to score the equalizer with a header off a cross from Messi on a free kick in the 82nd minute.
After the draw, Barcelona still tops the La Liga standings with 58 points, 12 points ahead of Atletico Madrid, which plays Valencia later on Sunday.