La Liga report: Eibar sink Espanyol
Last Updated: 04/01/15 10:22pm
Eibar enjoyed a stellar 2014 and carried it over to 2015 by taking all three points from their opening match of the year, a 2-1 win over Espanyol at the Power8 Stadium.
Manu del Moral opened the scoring for the visitors in the 34th minute and just moments later Eneko Boveda widened the gap between the two sides with a headed goal from a corner.
Felipe Caicedo pulled one back late on but the Catalans were unable to avert just a second home defeat of the season, which sees them fall three points behind the Basques.
Both sides were missing key players: Eibar's top scorer and captain Mikel Arruabarrena was suspended along with defender Raul Albentosa, who had played in all of the side's league games this season. Espanyol meanwhile were missing two of their main attacking threats in Christian Stuani and Lucas Vazquez, who were also suspended.
Neither side was able to exert an early grip on the game, and it took 20 minutes for the first chance to arrive - Del Moral finding space to shoot on the edge of the area and forcing Kiko Casilla to tip the ball around the far post.
Eibar slowly grew into the game and nearly found a way through when Federico Piovacarri slipped a short pass into Jon Errasti, but Victor Sanchez came flying in to swipe the ball away from the midfielder's feet.
Eibar's success this season has largely been down to their hard work, and their forceful pressing played a huge part in the opening goal.
Left-back Lillo and winger Saul Berjon teamed up to win the ball back by Espanyol's penalty area and exchanged passes allowing Berjon to cut the ball back across the box for Del Moral to drive low into the net.
The visitors tightened their grip on the game just four minutes later. Berjon delivered an out-swinging corner which Boveda rose to meet and head towards goal. Piovacarri dived to help it on towards goal but did not manage to get a final touch, although the Italian striker had certainly helped prevent Casilla from saving what was a soft effort.
Eibar were content to sit on their lead in the second half and Espanyol struggled to break down their two rigid banks of four. Anaitz Arbilla forced goalkeeper Xabier Irureta to tip a stinging effort from 20 yards over the bar and tested the goalkeeper again later on from a free-kick, but could not find a goal to kick-start a comeback.
Caicedo did manage to beat Irureta with 10 minutes to go, powering his way through the defence to get on the end of a free-kick from Arbilla.
The hosts created one final opportunity to equalise in the remaining minutes, Garcia arriving at the far post to meet a cross from Sanchez, but the Espanyol captain could not get enough power on his header to beat Irureta.