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Barça's Ronald Araújo Comes Under Fire For Mocking Derby Rivals With Relegation Gesture

Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo apologized for his "unfortunate gesture" in Sunday's 2-2 LaLiga draw away at city rivals Espanyol, saying the "tension" of the match led to the incident.

Araújo appeared to be taking aim at Espanyol midfielder Nico Melamed while he was leaving the field towards the end of the match, which saw both teams have a player sent off.

The 22-year-old Araújo, who was on the bench after going off at half-time with an injury, appeared to shout at Melamed and showed two fingers, insinuating Espanyol would be relegated to the second division again after being promoted this season.

"I want to apologize to all the people of Espanyol for the unfortunate gesture I made tonight. Everything has been the result of the tension experienced during a derby as disputed as today's," Araújo said on Twitter after the game. "I consider myself a respectful person with rival fans and clubs. I'm not proud of what happened."

Barcelona manager Xavi Hernández said that he had not seen the incident, but apologized for Araújo's actions.

"We have to respect the opponent, the referee and the rival fans," Spanish newspaper Marca quoted Xavi as saying. "We always have to be respectful, but the tension can sometimes make that hard. But I apologize, if this has happened, as it should not."

Barcelona are fourth in LaLiga on 39 points after 23 matches, 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid who have played a game more.

Xavi's team host Napoli in the first leg of the knockout round playoff of the second-tier Europa League on Thursday.

(Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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