Rich reward in Catalonia
LA LIGA SANTANDER ROUND 7
RCDE STADIUM, BARCELONA, SPAIN
REAL VALLADOLID 2
(Míchel (P) 26’, Óscar Plano 94’)
It was a day of contrasting fortunes for the few who have connections to both clubs as Real Valladolid picked up their second win of the season to further heap pressure on Espanyol manager David Gallego. In the opposing technical area, Sergio González enjoyed a triumphant return to the club he played for and managed, leaving with three important points as they overcame Espanyol. A first half penalty from Míchel put Pucela ahead, and Óscar Plano capped the win with a thumping finish in injury time. It was a day to forget for Espanyol defender Fernando Calero, with the ex-Real Valladolid player receiving a straight red card in the second period after bringing down Sergi Guardiola.
The home fans unveiled a banner to welcome the former midfielder who played over 120 matches for the Barcelona-based outfit and was a coach and manager from the B-team to the senior side between 2013-15. However, the away team showed no such hospitality on the field as they handed Espanyol their fourth away loss in as many matches. Gallego’s men have scored just once in that period and the pressure was already on him going into this encounter. In fairness to his side, they did not perform badly overall. They enjoyed a share of the chances in the first half and were unlucky not to take the lead through Jonathan Calleri who stole in front of Kiko Olivas and his first-time effort beat Jordi Masip at his near side from point-blank range, but the ball ricocheted off the base of the post.
The away side drew an instinctive reflex save Diego López, making his 100th appearance for the Catalan club, who parried away an effort from Toni Villa. However, the goalkeeper was beaten just three minutes later as the breakthrough for Pucela came on the quarter-hour mark via a penalty. As the ball was swung into the box from the left, Espanyol midfielder Victor Sánchez appeared to back into Óscar Plano and put his arm across the Pucela player’s face. Míchel was tasked with dispatching the resulting spot-kick and did so with great composure as he sent López the wrong way and tucked the ball neatly into the right-hand corner of the net.
Shortly before half-time, Sandro had an opportunity to double the lead when he took control of a Javi Moyano cross in the box and pivoted neatly to get his shot away but it was smothered by the experienced custodian between the home posts.
Real Valladolid went into the break a goal to the good and the pressure continued to build on Gallego who must have been feeling the glare of the assembled crowd at the RCDE Stadium along with the heat of the early autumn Barcelona sunshine on the back of his neck.
After the restart, the Catalan side grew more into the game. Adrià Pedrosa was unable to cap a fine counter-attacking move when his effort whistled past Masip’s left post moments after the second period began. Calleri did his utmost to haul his team back into the game and was outfoxed by a smart save from Masip. The striker was fed in by Matias Vargas and engineered room between the defensive pairing of Nacho and Mohammed Salisu to work a shooting opportunity, but Masip got down well to turn the effort away shortly after an hour had been played.
The pivotal moment of the match came three minutes later. As Sergi Guardiola pressured his former team-mate Calero, the central defender delayed on the ball and lost his composure as the Pucela striker out-muscled him. The Valladolid youth product tangled with the striker and hauled him down, preventing a goal-scoring opportunity and – true to the letter of the law – was met with a straight red card.
Before the dust had settled from Calero’s dismissal, Pucela had the ball in the net again through defender Joaquín who had only been introduced to the match moments before the expulsion. However, as was so often the case last season, VAR intervened and it was noted that he had strayed offside marginally prior to receiving a through-ball from Míchel.
The dismissal of Calero had negated any positive strides made by Espanyol in the second period, and Real Valladolid looked in command. Óscar Plano went close, before home defender Naldo was called into action to half a slick counter-attack involving Enes Ünal, Plano and Guardiola before it could bear fruit.
However, Sergio’s men were rewarded in the dying embers of the match with a well-taken second. Pedro Porro advanced to the edge of the Espanyol box and clipped the ball neatly onto the head of Ünal. The Turkish striker nodded it into Plano’s path who adjusted his feet before rifling an angled drive past the helpless López in the 94th minute.
It was no more than Pucela deserved for a comfortable display against an ailing side, and the win will serve as a boost prior to next week’s important home fixture against Atlético.
ESPANYOL: Diego López; Javi López (Capt.), Naldo, Fernando Calero, Didac Vila (Wu Lei 64’); Sergi Darder (David López 69’), Marc Roca, Victor Sánchez, Adrià Pedrosa; Jonathan Calleri, Matias Vargas (Pablo Piatti 74’).
Substitutes unused: Andrés Prieto; Esteban Granero, Óscar Melendo; Javier Puado.
REAL VALLADOLID: Jordi Masip; Nacho, Mohammed Salisu (Joaquín 64’), Kiko Olivas, Javi Moyano (Capt.); Toni Villa (Pedro Porro 75’), Míchel, Fede San Emeterio, Óscar Plano; Sergi Guardiola, Sandro (Enes Ünal 60’).
Substitutes unused: Andriy Lunin; Anuar, Pablo Hervías, Waldo.
Image: La Liga