First Division - Day 4

Espanyol 1 - Real Sociedad 2

First half: (match abandoned at half time due to rain)

Espanyol: Mora; Cristóbal, Nando, Pochettino, Roger; De Lucas, Sergio, Galca, Arteaga; Oscar, Manel. 4-4-2.
Real Sociedad: Asper; López Rekarte, Corino, Pikabea, Aranzábal; Khokhlov Aranburu, Idiakez, Collet; Arif, Jankauskas. 4-4-2.

Team changes: Espanyol: Pochettino, De Lucas, Oscar for Rotchen, Iván Díaz, Martín Posse / Real: Khokhlov, Arif for Loren, De Pedro.

Second half: (played 18th October)

Espanyol: Mora; Cristóbal (Navas 67'), Pochettino, Galca, Toledo (Arteaga 67'); Morales, Sergio, Velamazán, Roger; Oscar (Martín Posse 70 ), Manel. 4-4-2.
Real Sociedad: Asper; Fuentes, Gurrutxaga (Corino 76'), Pikabea, López Rekarte; Jauregui, Aranburu, Collet, Aranzábal; Idiakez (Gabilondo 91'), De Paula (Khokhlov 82'). 4-4-2.

0-1. 14. Arif (penalty). After Arteaga brought down Corino.
1-1. 35. Galca (penalty). Following foul by Pikabea on Manel.
1-2. 39. Idiakez. Well struck free kick from outside of penalty area.

First half report:

For the second time in only three days, a match was suspended due to rain at the Montjuic stadium in Barcelona. In Scotland I imagine this is nothing out of the ordinary, but in Spain as they say, the rain falls mainly on the plain, but only in the North of the country, for example in the provinces of Asturias, Basconia and Galicia. However in the rest of Spain the number of matches that are stopped due to bad weather can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Last Thursday's game against Olimpia Ljubljana was held up for half an hour near the end as the pitch was converted into a swimming pool and thunder and lightning crashed around the ground. They did however play out the last six minutes once things had quietened down. This time though referee Medina Cantalejo decided there was no point in continuing after half time with the pitch totally waterlogged, and the game was called off.

That was probably not too bad for Espanyol, as they were losing by 1-2 and were missing Posse and Toledo, both of whom had picked up colds after spending 90 minutes in the pouring rain midweek. They were also without Tamudo and Velamazán, who on their way back from Sydney (with injuries to boot) after winning Olympic silver. Both players are incidentally on a list of possible transferable players which also includes Sergio, Galca and Pochettino as Espanyol struggle to make their books balance. Real Sociedad's manager Javier Clemente could also recover a couple of players for the postponed game (if the rules allow-see below), with De Pedro missing and Collet weakened by a bout of gastro-enteritis which had hit the team a day or two before this game. He was also without the suspended Loren, with Pikabea dropping back to his usual defensive role to make room for Khokhlov, and Arif coming in for De Pedro to make his league debut with his new club.

The first half was not worthy of much comment, with the difficult conditions making creative play impossible. Both teams were awarded a penalty by the referee, with Arif scoring for Real on his debut and Galca getting his third of the season, and Idiakez put the visitors back into the lead with a scorching free kick. Other than that Espanyol had the best of it, with De Lucas testing Asper from a long way out on a couple of occasions and Oscar also trying his luck. The suspension of the game at half time was approved by both sides, and they have agreed to play the second half of the match in a couple of weeks time on Wednesday 18th October.

Unlike some European countries, the result up to half time stands, and teams only have to play out the rest of the unfinished game. In previous seasons, the rules were that the sides that line up for the restart should be the same eleven who were on the pitch at the time the game was suspended, with one of the original substitutes replacing any player who was injured in the meantime. It is not clear yet whether this rule is still valid, but Loren at least must sit out the other half-match of his suspension and will not be available. Both teams need the points, with Espanyol only having one win to their name and Real Sociedad two draws, and both are in the bottom six of the table at the moment.

Second half report:

The game restarted on Wednesday 18th October in front of only 7,500 spectators, with both sides allowed to select the starting line ups that best suited them. Flores made three changes, bringing in Olympic silver medallist Velamazán as well as Morales and Toledo, with Galca playing in defence and Roger in midfield. Their other Olympian, Tamudo, was injured, and now close to signing for Rangers, may not play for Espanyol again. Clemente was missing Arif (once again with gastric problems), and played De Paula up front rather than Jankauskas, with Aranzábal playing further forward on the left.

Having let in six in 45 minutes against Barcelona a few days ago, Real had learnt their lesson, and their defence put up a much more solid performance. Espanyol played long balls forward to their front two, but it was in fact the visitors who came closest to scoring, with Aranzábal almost getting one on the rebound and Idiakez volleying wide. Flores changed his team around half way through, but there was no real chance until injury time, when Asper pushed Sergio's point blank shot against the crossbar to save the day. The 1-2 result saves Clemente's position for the time being, their first win of the season taking them off the bottom and above Espanyol to 15th place. The Catalans desperately need a goalscorer, and if Tamudo goes they will have to wait until December to sign someone, with Japan's Nishizawa currently favourite. But it may be too late by then.