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Gerard Pique lauded by Spanish media after winning goal

Previous critics of Gerard Pique were changing their tune after the Barcelona centre-back's late headed winner in La Roja's Euro 2016 opening Group D game against the Czech Republic on Monday.

Barcelona born Pique has been regularly jeered by his own country's fans over the last two years, due to his perceived anti-Real Madrid and pro-Catalan independence stances, with further barracking heard during their 0-1 tournament warm up defeat by Georgia earlier this month.

But his 87th minute header brought three points against the Czechs, after Vicente Del Bosque's team were unable to find the net despite dominating the game, and has lead to a sharp about-turn in feeling towards Pique among nationalist-leaning media and supporters in Spain.

Tuesday morning's cover of Madrid-favouring AS, which in the past has been critical of Pique's general attitude and social media use, said 'Thanks Pique', with their match report carrying the headline 'Pique saves Spain'.

Marca's coverage of the game included the headline 'Pique - national hero', for a video interview with fans at the stadium who said "it is all forgotten now", "we all wear the same colours" and "from now on he is my cousin Gerardo".

On Tuesday morning, the magazine's cover referenced a famous tweet from the player laughing at Madrid's Copa del Rey exit in December 2015 with the line - "No need to say anything else".

Meanwhile in Catalonia, Sport columnist Lluis Mascaro asked: "Now will they whistle Pique?" [who now has five goals in 78 senior international caps for Spain] and Mundo Deportivo editor Santi Nolla referenced a quote from Pique during Barca's 2014-15 treble celebrations about Cristiano Ronaldo's 30th birthday party the previous January, in his piece entitled 'Everything began with Pique'.

Interviewed by Spanish station Telecinco after the game in Toulouse, Pique steered away from any controversy, but did say that his son Milan had been supporting the national team during the game.

"My son was there in the stand wearing a Spain jersey," he said, with a Catalan journalist later tweeting a photo of the three year old waiting to celebrate with his father after the game.

Spain's man of the match Andres Iniesta was also asked by Telecino if he was especially happy it was his teammate who scored the decisive goal.

"I would say for outside things, then yes," the Barcelona captain replied. "But the commitment of everyone here is undoubtable. We all want to bring this team as far as we can."

Pique's tweet after the game showed him celebrating the goal with international teammate and Madrid captain Ramos. "I guess there is no need to say anything else... We're a magnificent team. A great day for everyone."

Marca also reported that Ramos reposted the photo to his own account, with the long-time international teammates and heavy social media users then 'following' each other for the first time later on Monday evening.

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