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Gerard Moreno put the hosts ahead midway through the second half and Pique equalised with an 82nd-minute header in a heated match at RCDE Stadium.

Barcelona did level in the 83rd minute, however, when Pique rose high to head a Messi cross into the bottom corner.

Pique scored a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw as the Spanish league leader narrowly avoided losing to its crosstown rival for the second time in less than three weeks.

Neither side could find a victor in the dying minutes of the match as they shared the spoils and Barcelona remained unbeaten for the league season. "Part of the crowd was insulting my family".

Pique had previously made comments criticising Espanyol, and he was jeered almost every time he touched the ball.

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.

Ernesto Valverde opted to make changes to his squad and left Lionel Messi on the bench with Paco Alcacer coming into the starting lineup. "His gesture comes as part of the rivalry that is natural in a derby".

The match was played in pouring rain and Valverde slammed the "dangerous" pitch.

Philippe Coutinho faced Espanyol on his Barcelona debut
Philippe Coutinho faced Espanyol on his Barcelona debut

Messi, who provided the cross for Pique's header, came off the bench near the hour-mark after getting some rare rest time from Valverde.

The point made it 22 games without defeat for table-toppers Barca in La Liga this season, a new club record.

Barca lost the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final 1-0 as Espanyol ended their unbeaten run of 29 games in all competitions. Barcelona eventually eliminated Espanyol by winning the second leg 2-0.

Espanyol subsequently reported Pique to the Spanish Football Federation and he was booed throughout Sunday's match, making his equaliser for Barcelona an even sweeter moment for the Spain worldwide. Tempers then threatened to boil over as Moreno went in on Pique, which sparked a mini-brawl between both sets of players.

"It was one of the most exciting games", coach Quique Sanchez Flores said. "Our fans are above that".

"It isn't that we suffered so much in this game, but Espanyol de Cornella always make it hard for us", he said, as reported by Marca.

As expected, Barcelona dominated possession from the start.