|Espanyol (1)||Valencia (2)|
|Marc Roca 31′ (P)||Daniel Parejo 69′ (P)|
Maxi Gomez 80′
An animated video of Sun Wu Kong, the mythical Monkey King from Chinese folklore, was beamed in the RDCE Stadium minutes before kick-off. It was no doubt a nod to Espanyol’s Chinese owner Chen Yansheng, but perhaps also a hope to get some of the transformative powers of the famous fictional deity.
It worked. But not for the second-from-bottom Catalan club.
Instead, the magic shone on the men in orange, as Valencia fought back from a goal down to win 2-1. A penalty from Daniel Parejo and brave header from Maxi Gomez earned Los Che three precious points and a cheerful return trip home.
But it could well have been a darker day. Espanyol sprung right out looking every bit like a team out to prevent a depressing sixth successive home loss.
Within 10 minutes, a dipping volley hit hard into the ground by Sergi Darder had Jasper Cillessen make an acrobatic reaction save, a redemptive moment for the keeper who was shoddy in mid-week.
Espanyol’s Chinese striker Wu Lei did his best Sun Wu Kong impression with his sprightly movement in behind the Bats’ defence, causing havoc down the right. Playing a 5-3-2, Espanyol manager Pablo Machin used wing-backs to drag Mouctar Diakhaby and Jaume Costa out of positions.
But a silly mistake by Valencia in the 31st minute gave the home team the opener. Geoffrey Kondogbia was meant to raise his hand and be counted in the absence of lynchpin Francis Coquelin, but he flailed both arms to give away a penalty instead.
Bayern-linked midfield dynamo Marc Roca converted easily for Espanyol’s first (yes!) home goal of the season. No wonder the home fans roared.
Valencia came out fighting after the break. Even after a VAR replay denied the visitors a penalty in the 53rd minute, Espanyol creaked under the onslaught as a tactical change saw our full-backs advancing forward.
The pressure told, when Rodrigo was clearly shoved in the 69th minute. Parejo – playing his 350th game for the club – lashed in the penalty. Five out of five from the spot so far this season, vamos!
The momentum had well and truly shifted as the dark clouds, literally, rolled in over the stadium for Espanyol at that moment.
Good work done on the left flank by Kondogbia and Rodrigo, the best player in the game, whipped in a delicious cross. Maxi Gomez, who Rodrigo joked would head a damn refrigerator, powered in a header at the near post. Amunt!
Valencia held on for the win, no monkeying around. Though the visitors’ defence remains suspect, with just two clean sheets in 12 LaLiga games so far.
A Champions League spot is within distance again. “We took a step forward and got a very important victory,” said shining beacon Rodrigo.
No such light for Espanyol, which must hope for more Chinese mythical prowess as they navigate a journey out of the relegation zone.