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Gerard Piqué scores in the 49th minute of FC Barcelona's 4–1 win over Espanyol on Wednesday night at Camp Nou. / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB / VICTOR SALGADO - FCB

When a centre-back scores a big goal, it’s kind of a big deal. So when Gerard Piqué approached the pool of journalists assembled down the hall from the team’s dressing room following FC Barcelona’s 4–1 victory over RCD Espanyol in the first leg of the Copa del Rey last 16, to say it created a bit of a stir is an understatement.

Lionel Messi may have been the star of the game with two goals and two assists — one on Piqué’s goal in minute 49 — but Piqué’s charisma makes him a tasty media target.

The centre-back declared that the result was good for Barça, but he was quick to warn that the second leg was still open.

“The tie is not over. Anything can happen in the Copa del Rey. Look what happened [in 2007] when we beat Getafe 5–2 here,” Piqué said.

Despite Espanyol’s insistence on continuing their approach of highly physical and aggressive play, something that gave them success in the scoreless draw between the two sides last Saturday in league play, Piqué downplayed both Espanyol’s approach and the performance of the referee.

“Derbies have a lot of intensity and [Espanyol’s] style of play goes to the limit. There are some games in which the referee allows it; not today,” he said.

Piqué also had words of praise for Messi, as well as Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, who both debuted on Wednesday after waiting six months while the now infamous FIFA ban ran out.

“Leo helped a lot by opening the scoring and from there we were able to score more goals,” Piqué said. As for Turan and Vidal: “They were pretty good for not having played in six months.”

Besides Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Andrés Iniesta and Vidal also spoke to reporters. Here are the highlights of what they had to say:

Busquets:

“It’s really important for Aleix and Arda to be able to play with us. They were good even if it was obvious they have to get back up to game speed.”

“It was an intense game with a bot of confrontation. But I don’t think there was anything outlandish.”

“What happens on the field stays on the field.”

Iniesta:

“A derby is always a different game, intense, but we played with the necessary intensity.”

“We’re really happy for Arda and Aleix. From now on they’ll be able to help the team achieve our year-end objectives.”

Vidal:

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this day and it finally happened.”

“We’re very thankful for the way people appreciate the effort we made while awaiting the expiration of the [FIFA] sanction.”

“This was not an easy game to make a debut. I think Arda was up to the task. I came out when the game was more locked up.”



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