A point in the right direction
Espanyol extend their unbeaten streak in Europe and guarantee first place in the group.
Espanyol’s objective was to leave Budapest having mathematically guaranteed first place in the group, after the last UEFA Europa League group game assured qualification for the Last 32. All that was left was to clarify in the two remaining games was whether it would be as group winners, or runners-up. For this reason, Machín had no qualms about stating on the eve of the match that he wanted to win to put an end to the matter. Period. The sooner it was all decided, the better.
The “blanquiazul” coach, however, decided to rest players and breathe new life into the team, giving players who hadn’t racked up many minutes in recent weeks the opportunity to impress against an opponent whose physicality was its forte.
In any case, Ferencvaros started quickly, looking to improve their own chances of qualification with speed and strength. Diego López was forced into an early save by the home side, but there was little he could do halfway through the first half when, from a free kick out wide, the ball crashed against the back post and rebounded towards the penalty spot where Siger, alert, only had to hit the target to score the first goal of the game.
The goal didn’t cause Espanyol heads to drop, as they continued to threaten the Ferencvaros goal with repeated attacks down the wings, even though Campuzano was always well marked. Pipa played a fantastic ball through the Ferencvaros back line, the centre-back ended up at Melendo’s feet, and the Espanyol man took advantage to equalize and once again bring a sense of calm to proceedings.
The start of the second half was a carbon copy of the first. A quick start by the home side, forcing the visitors to drop back and defend in order to curb their momentum. Even so, Isael shook the crossbar after a long spell of possession for Ferencvaros.
The reply to the sustained pressure arrived, with a Campuzano shot from point-blank somehow kept out by the home side. A minute later Dídac went close with a header.
Diego López also stepped up to the plate, saving a penalty from Isael, awarded in controversial circumstances after a coming together with Calero. Machín’s side, though, suffered another setback after another penalty was awarded to the home side. This time, Skvarka converted. RCD Espanyol fought on until the end. Dídac had a chance to equalise, but it was Sergi Darder who managed to equalise, and earn a well-deserved point that secured our place at the top of the group and continued an historic unbeaten run in Europe.