RC Celta de Vigo moved to within four points of the European qualification positions following a 3-1 away victory over relegation-threatened RCD Espanyol de Barcelona at the RCDE Stadium. The result extends Los Celestes’ unbeaten record in La Liga to five matches.
Hoping to continue their recent one-sided bragging rights after losing only one of their previous 11 H2Hs, Espanyol signaled their attacking intentions immediately from kick-off in Cornellà de Llobregat as Martin Braithwaite fired wide.
Looking to avenge their Copa del Rey round of 32 exits at the beginning of 2023, Celta Vigo was made to wait for their first opportunity on goal, as Iago Aspas’s 20th-minute speculative close-range backheel failed to trouble Fernando Pacheco.
However, the Spanish goalkeeper was helpless to prevent the visitors from taking the lead six minutes later as 20-year-old Gabri Veiga unleashed a stunning curling strike beyond the grasp of Pacheco for his ninth league goal of the season.
With the HT interval on the horizon, Celta were handed a glorious opportunity to double their lead after Leandro Cabrera had clumsily brought down Carles Pérez in the area.
On the back of celebrating becoming the first-ever player to score a double-digit number of goals across the previous eight La Liga campaigns, the in-form Aspas coolly stepped up to send Pacheco the wrong way and double his side’s advantage.
On course to continue their determined pursuit of a first appearance in a UEFA competition since the 2016/17 Europa League, Celta should have been back on the coach celebrating with all three points in the 51st minute.
However, SL Benfica loanee Haris Seferovic could only fire his close-range effort high into the stands behind the goal. Needing an immediate response to stand a chance of salvaging anything from the contest, the majority within the RCDE Stadium were left in disbelief with the hour-mark approaching, as top scorer Joselu uncharacteristically fired wide in front of an open goal.
Pérez exquisitely concluded Celta Vigo’s work for the evening in the 82nd minute with a clinical finish to a sublime attacking team move, with victory representing only a second success from their last 15 expeditions to the RCDE Stadium.
Meanwhile, despite a late consolation from substitute José Gragera, Espanyol remains only a point above the La Liga trapdoor with the daunting prospect of dropping into the bottom three on Sunday evening if results elsewhere go against them.
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