A year on, to the day, of captain Dani Jarque’s tragic death, Espanyol responded in the best possible way with victory in the annual Carranza Trophy. The cup, held since 1955 by Cadiz F.C in memorial to a former owner, always manages to attract a good quality line-up and this year proved no exception. As well as the home team, who currently play in Segunda Division B, the third tier of Spanish football. They were joined by La Liga outfits Sevilla F.C, Club Atletico Madrid and of course RCD Espanyol de Barcelona.
In ‘the blue and whites’ opening match of the tournament, they took on Champions League qualifiers Sevilla. With a strong squad many would have expected the side from the orange groves to walk all over the Catalans. However, this was not the case. Espanyol took the lead after 41 minutes when Sevilla’s, French defender, Sebastien Squillaci lost the ball to Luis Garcia. The striker stroked the ball past oncoming keeper Andres Palop. However, the half was not over and a defensive error from Francisco Javier Chico led to a penalty being conceded and veteran striker Frederic Kanoute smashed the ball straight down the middle of the goal, leaving the half-time score as 1-1. The second half was to all purposes a damp squib, with the ‘red whites’ and the ’white blues’ cancelled each other out, until Sevilla were awarded another penalty, but this time Kanoute’s fellow striker Alvaro Negredo stepped up to the spot, and duly missed! This meant the final score remained 1-1, leading to the dreaded penalty shoot out! The Barcelonan’s managed to hold their nerve and converted all their penalties, however the club from Seville came up against an inspired Carlos Kameni who saved two of the spot kicks, giving Espanyol a 4-1 penalty victory. In the other game Atletico Madrid overcame Cadiz 6-5 on penalties, after a 1-1 draw in normal time.
This meant Sunday’s final was between the teams who had finished 9th and 11th in last years La Liga. The game took little time to spark into action, with the capital side taking the advantage with a first minute headed goal from Brazilian striker Diego Costa. However, the advantage was short lived and Jose Maria Callejon riffled a shot straight past keeper Joel in the Madrid goal. From then onwards the game became a blood and thunder encounter with very few chances and seven yellow cards and a red being showed to goal hero from the Sevilla game, Luis Garcia. However, Espanyol clung on through extra time to force another penalty show-down, would they be lucky a second time? The answer was… yes, with two penalties again saved, but this time by reserve keeper Kiko Casilla to give the Catalans a 4-3 victory on penalties. In what proved to be an emotional scene, the squad covered the trophy in a t-shirt, depicting the face of Dani Jarque, a year on from his passing on a pre-season tour to Italy.
In their four pre-season fixtures so far this season the Estadi Cornella El-Prat outfit have remained unbeaten, as well as victory in the Carranza Trophy they have managed to beat Palamos and Perelada and gained a 0-0 draw against Champions League qualifiers Sampdoria. A final pre-season game against Sporting Gijon on Wednesday, will provide the players with a final chance to prove themselves to Mauricio Pochettino with the season less than three weeks away from starting. They open with a home match against Europa League qualifiers Getafe, in what will prove to be a tough start to the season. If they can continue their form through the rest of pre-season and into the La Liga season, Espanyol could reach higher than many have given them hope of achieving.
In squad news, new signing Felipe Mattioni was bought off as a precaution against Atletico Madrid but should be fit for the Wednesday fixture against Gijon, but, goalie Cristian Alvares looks to be out for a while after suffering a late challenge from Atletico goal-scorer Diego Costa. With little movement in the transfer market recently it could well be that the squad remains unchanged, leaving Pochettino with little choice and depth to his team.