Sunday's result was supposed to be triumphant for Barcelona as they secured the 2022/23 La Liga title by beating city rivals Espanyol 4-2 behind a brace from Robert Lewandowski.
The season had not been without its bumps and bruises, but the Catalan club secured their first domestic league title since the departure of Lionel Messi, a monumental occasion as they mathematically achieved the result with still four games left on the schedule, well clear of rivals Real Madrid.
Yet the celebrations were cut short by a scary scene as the Barcelona squad and staff had to run for cover to escape angry Espanyol fans who invaded the RCDE Stadium pitch and chased the jubilant players from the field.
It was a scenario that left both clubs red-faced and La Liga scrambling to pick up the pieces. Thankfully nobody was injured amid the fracas, as things could have potentially turned out much worse.
Why did Espanyol fans chase Barcelona players?
The scene that played out at RCDE Stadium did not result from just a moment of anger, but instead from a simmering cauldron that boiled over on the pitch on Sunday.
Barcelona won their first league title in three seasons by beating Espanyol 4-2, with Robert Lewandowski scoring twice. The result put them 14 points clear of nearest rivals Real Madrid, officially securing the crown.
Espanyol, meanwhile, are in the thick of the relegation battle, sitting 19th with four games to go, four points adrift of safety. It has been a difficult season for the club, and defeat to Barcelona was just another misstep in their attempt to remain afloat in the Spanish top flight.
These two clubs loathe each other, as their stadiums rest just seven kilometers apart in the city of Barcelona. The Derbi Barceloni goes back 94 years and is the most-played local derby in the history of La Liga.
After the match was complete, already seething Espanyol fans saw Barcelona players celebrating on their pitch at the centre circle — something they very easily could have done in the dressing room — and emotions bubbled up to the point of no return.
The fans still remaining in the stadium rushed the field and chased the players off. Some players were seen bolting for immediate cover, while some others remonstrated with the fans, with the likes of Sergio Busquets, Julian Araujo, and Marcos Alonso confronting them in the tunnel.
This is mad. An absolute disgrace. Espanyol fans invading the pitch trying to assault Barça players & staff celebrating their league title. Footage is shocking.@TheAthleticFC pic.twitter.com/1B3THBlq0B— Pol Ballús (@polballus) May 14, 2023
Xavi admits Barcelona should have celebrated differently
In the wake of the incident, Barcelona head coach Xavi admitted that his players could have handled the celebrations differently to avoid the altercation.
Xavi, who himself had headed back down the tunnel immediately after the final whistle and was not present on the pitch for the run-in with fans, told the media after the game that his players needed to show more respect to Espanyol.
"It's an emotional moment, but I understood that it was the moment to celebrate inside to respect Espanyol," Xavi said. "It is the moment to celebrate, of course, but we are not at home."
There is no excuse for fans to rush the field and attack the players, but Xavi made it understood his squad contributed to the flash point.
Espanyol fans protest club board
Following the altercation with the Barcelona players, Espanyol fans remained on the pitch to protest the club's board and their relegation-threatened status. Police formed a protective barrier to the tunnel once the commotion was cleared.
A report by The Athletic claimed that fans were seen throwing chairs and fence pieces towards the executive box in the stadium, before police took to the stadium PA to ask fans to disperse, threatening violence.
Fans then heeded the warnings from police, departing the stadium pitch.