|First Division - Day 23|
Real Sociedad 2 - Espanyol 1
Alberto; Luiz Alberto, Pikabea, Julio César; Tayfun, Xavi Alonso,
López Rekarte; Idiakez (Llorente 73'), Khokhlov, De Pedro (De Paula
46'); Jankauskas (Fuentes 60'). 3-3-3-1.
Team changes: Real: Alberto, Pikabea, Tayfun, De Pedro, Jankauskas for Asper, Loren, Corino, Aranzábal, Llorente / Espanyol: Argensó, Navas, Lopo, Martín Posse for Mora, Cristóbal, Soldevilla, Oscar.
John Toshack finally got his first home win since rejoining Real Sociedad in what he described as the worst match his team has played since he came back. The Welsh manager changed his team around, keeping the same formation but changing two of his back three, with Luiz Alberto dropping back to more defensive duties. Asper got the chop again in goal after four games back, with Alberto returning once again, and Toshack must be rueing the fact that he chose not to bring Depor's third keeper Kouba to the club whilst the transfer window was still open. There was a change of keepers at the other end too, Argensó making his league debut in place of Mora who was still nursing a cut to his hand, and youngster Lopo came in for the suspended Soldevilla.
Both sides created opportunities early on before Real opened the scoring, Sergio getting in front of Idiakez on the far post as a corner came over from the left, but only managing to head it in to his own net. Khokhlov should have increased their lead when he beat the offside trap just afterwards, but Argensó came out quickly and blocked his shot. That proved a costly let off, as within a few minutes Espanyol were level, Toledo putting his passport problems behind him for now to score his first goal for his club, a well placed header over Alberto from Roger's long free kick. At half time De Pedro left the pitch with a knee injury, De Paula taking his place, and immediately afterwards Sergio tried to make up for his mistake with a shot from outside of the area which sailed over the bar.
Espanyol came forward but they were stopped in their tracks by a superb Alberto, saving from Velamazán and then making a double stop from Sergio's free kick and Posse's follow up. Toshack put on an extra defender Fuentes for Jankauskas, and with a quarter of an hour to go they won a penalty, referee Bueno Grimal upsetting the visitors ruling that Navas had tripped López Rekarte inside the penalty area, a decision that was less than clear on both counts. However De Paula gratefully accepted and placed the ball past Argensó for the winner. The victory moves Real four points clear of the bottom two, Racing and Osasuna, who both lost, but with Numancia winning they stay in the relegation zone. Espanyol's push for Europe has gone off the rails for the time being, and they drop out of the top half of the table.