Pre Season Friendly
Sun 2nd August 2009 8pm, Estadio Cornella-El Prat Stadium, Spain.
Espanyol produced a solid all-round display to ensure that their first game at their new ground was to be a success, prevailing 3-0 overnight. Two goals from former Chelsea striker, Ben Sahar, and a solitary goal for Luis Garcia helping the Periquitos clinch victory.
The much anticipated match was set at the new Espanyol home ground in front of a backdrop of 40, 000 mad fans who raised the roof throughout the night. It was also a special moment for Albert Riera who spent two full seasons at Espanyol before making the move to the red half of Merseyside.
With Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel, young San Jose was seelcted to start alongside Jamie Carragher in defence, while Fernando Torres made his first start in pre-season and midfielder Lucas paired Javier Mascherano in the middle amongst constant speculation regarding Xabi Alonso’s future.
Right from kick off, the game was electric, with constant ball movement and swift counter attacking play. With both teams attacking with intent, Liverpool almost struck the first blow in the 19th minute from a 30 yard effort from Steven Gerrard which had goalkeeper, Carlos Kameni, beaten but struck the cross bar.
Just one minute later though, Espanyol were ahead through Luis Garcia’s goal. A lapse in concentration at the back from San Jose saw Luis Garcia turn straight past him after a through ball from Shunsuke Nakamura and slot past Pepe Reina.
Liverpool’s response was almost immediate when a one-two between Gerrard and Torres saw the Spaniard released into open space before being pulled down by the last man on the edge of the area.
The resulting free kick saw Gerrard step up and strike the right hand post once again from a shot that bent wickedly.
Raul Tamudo seemingly got Espanyol’s second when he turned and skipped past an unaware San Jose, proceeding to beat Pepe Reina, but it was brought back for a marginal offside call.
In general, Liverpool looked behind the 8 ball and it was the lively Lucas and Benayoun who provided most of Liverpool’s ammo. Yossi wreaked havoc down the left hand side and Lucas was instrumental in the middle, chasing and creating.
The second half started where the first left off, with Verdu testing Reina from distance but had his shot tipped over.
The creativity in midfield that Espanyol pose was once again the difference as former Chelsea striker, Ben Sahar, sprinted past Degen to meet a through ball, in the end beating Reina one on one with a perfectly timed run and shot that Degen failed to anticipate.
In the 84th minute of the match, Xabi Alonso made a surprise cameo appearance off the bench which has fueled more speculation regarding his proposed move to Real Madrid.
2-0 up and cruising, Espanyol weren’t finished and Ben Sahar was there again to slot home into an empty net after Martinez weaved through a leaky defence before his shot fell to Sahar.
It could have been a hat trick for Sahar with one minute left but after again seizing on a misread in defence from Degen, the angle was too tight and failed to convert.
In the end, the passing quality and the intent to please the home fans was enough for Espanyol as they went away resounding winners, while for Liverpool, its back to the training paddock.
Luis Garcia (19′), Sahar (64′, 87′).
LFC starting XI: Reina, Insua, Carragher, San Jose, Johnson, Benayoun, Leiva, Mascherano, Kuyt, Gerrard, Torres.
Espanyol starting XI: Kameni, Garcia, Gonzalez, Pareja, Pillud, Garcia, De La Pena, Hurtado Perez, Nakamura, Alonso Vallejo, Tamudu.