(Reuters) - Espanyol defender Bernardo Espinosa and forward Wu Lei scored either side of the break to hand the relegation-threatened side a 2-0 La Liga home win over Alaves, who had goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco sent off early in Saturday’s contest.
Victory in their first match on the league’s resumption after the COVID-19 stoppage took basement team Espanyol to 23 points from 28 games, three points off the safety zone.
Espinosa gave Espanyol the lead in the final seconds of the first half, heading Adri Embarba’s cross past substitute keeper Roberto Jimenez before Chinese striker Wu doubled the lead two minutes into the second period having beaten the offside trap.
“It was an important day... we have demonstrated that ambition, desire and life that this team has,” goalscorer Espinosa was quoted as saying by AS.
Alaves were reduced to 10 men in the 19th minute when their starting Spanish keeper Pacheco was shown a straight red card after he misread a long pass and handled the ball just outside the penalty area.
Espanyol were unable to make the most of the resultant free kick but they continued to create opportunities, forcing Jimenez into a pair of superb double saves against his former team, before eventually making the breakthrough.
“He is a goalkeeper with a great career... lot of experience and today he was successful,” Alaves boss Asier Garitano said of Jimenez. “He was good, he chose well. It’s not easy to enter with one (player) less.”
Espanyol dominated possession and could have added a third late on when striker Raul de Tomas found fellow substitute Sergi Darder unmarked inside the box, but the midfielder failed to find the target with Jimenez out of position.
Espanyol, who have been in the top-flight for 85 out of 89 seasons including the last 26 years, face a tough run-in with games against Real Madrid and local rivals Barcelona to come.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris