|First Division - Day 18|
Las Palmas 1 - Espanyol 0
Las Palmas: Nacho
González; Edu Alonso, Alvaro, Schurrer, Paqui, Jarni (Angel 46'); Pablo
Lago (Jorge 78'), Samways, Josico; Eloy, Orlando (Toddi 82'). 5-3-2.
Team changes: Las Palmas: Samways, Eloy, Orlando for Jorge, Guayre, Oulare / Espanyol: Rotchen, Morales, Iván Díaz, Serrano for Soldevilla, Velamazán, Roger, Oscar.
A single goal from Eloy in the first half took Las Palmas to the gates of Europe and left Espanyol back down near the relegation zone in fifteenth place. Eloy came in to the side to link up with his old colleague Orlando in attack thanks to the absence of the Canary Islanders' first choice strike force, Guayre (injured) and Oulare (international duty). Segio Kresic has been crying out for reinforcements after his summer signings fell flat, with Oktay leaving the club, Oulare constantly injured and Toddi failing to live up to expectations. However his in-house players are filling the gap adequately so far, with Guayre proving to be one of the most exciting young players in the league and the two old war-horses Eloy and Orlando making a successful transition from the second division B, where they formed the promotion winning attack, to the top flight.
With their usual five man defence and Vinny Samways returning from suspension to marshal midfield, Las Palmas set their stall out in their own half looking for their third victory in a row. Espanyol had been hit by injuries and illness, with Oscar not yet fully recovered from his scare last week and Velamazán, victim of a flu bug, the last to fall, and Rotchen, Morales, Díaz and Serrano all made rare starts. De Lucas was left out of the squad after making controversial statements midweek, and new signing Akinori Nishizawa joined the squad for the first time, his appearance attracting massive press attention from the Japanese media who were broadcasting the game live at home in the early hours of the morning. The opening 45 minutes were evenly balanced, with Eloy getting the ball in the net from an offside position and Iván Díaz shooting over from close up. Paco Flores had been concerned about the presence of Jarni on the left, and it was his cross that lead to the goal, Alvaro heading it back down for Eloy to nod it on past Mora. Later in the half they could have made it two, with Orlando producing a spectacular volley from Samway's cross, and claiming a penalty later on when Rotchen brought him down.
Jarni was not yet fully fit, and with his work done he took his leave at the interval. Flores had obviously had a pep talk with his players during the break, and they came out with more zip, Serrano seeing his effort saved by Nacho González just after the restart, with Schurrer clearing the rebound off the line. Tamudo also came close on a couple of occasions, with González tipping a shot over the bar. Nishizawa came on with just over a quarter of an hour to go in a flash of cameras and showed some good touches, including a through ball for Tamudo to shoot past the keeper which referee Andradas Asurmendi ruled out for a dubious offside. However the image that television cameras picked up was a run down the right, with the Japanese player trying to cross and eventually missing, falling over and then smiling as the crowd cheered him on. But Las Palmas closed ranks to achieve their second 1-0 victory in a row and move up to eighth, their highest place in the league this season, within a point of Rayo Vallecano in sixth. Espanyol change their chip for their midweek cup tie against Extremadura, but need to do better in the league if Flores is to remain in charge much longer. The knives are already being sharpened.