Evening all! The second of our three back-to-back live commentaries in La Liga comes from Espanyol as the home side welcome Sociedad. Espanyol have moved clear of relegation trouble since Javier Aguirre took charge, with the club now focusing on the top half of the table rather than looking over their shoulders.
Sociedad, meanwhile, have been the season’s success story with a sensational 2013 leaving them in fourth position in the table. They have won three of their last five matches in the league, remaining unbeaten during that period. However, five of their seven league defeats this season have come on the road.
In terms of the recent meetings between the two sides, Espanyol have enjoyed the best of it with two wins to Sociedad’s one in the last five matches. As mentioned, Espanyol were 1-0 winners at Sociedad earlier in the season, but the points were shared in the corresponding match in the previous campaign. The omens point to a close match this evening.
ESPANYOL: Casilla; Colotto, Moreno, Forlin, Alvarez; Simao, Verdu, Victor, Lopez; Garcia, Stuani
SOCIEDAD: Zubikarai; Mikel, De la Bella, C Martinez, I Martinez; Prieto, Illarra, Zurutuza, Bergara; Agirretxe, Griezmann
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch. Just a quick word on the main team news. No Samuele Longo or Martin Petrov for the home side, with Sergio Garcia
and Christian Stuani
once more starting in attack. Meanwhile, Sociedad are without Carlos Vela, but Antoine Griezmann does start. The home side get the action underway.
Not a full house inside the stadium this early evening, but there is a strong atmosphere. Should Sociedad lose by a two-goal margin in this match, they would drop to fifth, with Malaga taking fourth position. Quick prediction from me, I am backing a score draw on this mild night in Spain.
Confident start from the away side with Xabi Prieto, Bergara and Illarra seeing plenty of the ball in the early stages. You just get the feeling that the first goal could be crucial in this type of match. It must be said that the pitch is in fine condition at this stage of the season. Beautiful for the technical players on the pitch.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the early stages with both sides just finding their way into the match. Meanwhile, the referee has been forced to deal with a few untidy challenges. It remains to be seen how much Vela will be missed for the away side this evening, the goal-scoring burden will fall on Griezmann and Agirretxe.
Half-chance for the away side as Prieto finds possession on the edge of the box before striking an effort towards goal, but Colotto is across to clear at the vital moment. Really good away support for Sociedad this evening. Espanyol under Javier Aguirre are just a completely different side to the team that started the season. The Mexican must be praised for his work here.
Half-chance for the home side this time as Verdu takes the corner short before whipping a dangerous cross into the box, but Inigo Martinez is across to clear at the vital moment. Not too much from Sergio Garcia in the opening nine minutes, but he is sporting a new haircut this evening. Nice and tidy for the summer.
GOAL! Espanyol 1-0 Sociedad (Garcia)
What was I saying? Nothing much from Garcia? Well the Spaniard has just sent his side into the lead. Wonderful work from Simao as the winger crafts down the left before whipping a low cross into the box, with Garcia on hand to score from close range.
Another half-chance for the home side as Garcia pops up on the left before whipping a dangerous cross into the box, but Simao just cannot make contact under contact from Mikel. It has been a confident start from Verdu, who has been picking out passes all over the pitch. Really lively opening 12 minutes of this match.
Good possession from Sociedad in the last couple of moments with Bergara and Illarra combining down the left before whipping a cross into the box, but Casilla is out to collect at the vital moment. Another deep cross comes into the area from Mikel, but once more Casilla is on hand to claim. Plenty of suggestions that Sociedad are confident of scoring goals this evening.
Half-chance for the away side to level the scores as Griezmann is felled by Lopez outside the penalty area. The resulting free kick is taken by Illarra, but his effort is straight into the wall. The rebound falls to the Spaniard, but once more the same outcome arrives. Just a quick note on the Sociedad team this evening, there are no less than 10 Spaniards in their starting team.
The football is all being played by Sociedad as they continue to pass and probe outside the penalty area, but there is just no way through this stern Espanyol defence. Stuani is a threat down the other end as he collects a high ball before finding Garcia, but Mikel is across to thump clear at the vital moment.
Not too much to report in terms of chances in the last few moments with neither side offering too much in the final third. Plenty of quality possession on display in the middle part of the pitch, but each defence has been solid thus far. The Espanyol supporters are in good voice with 20 minutes on the clock.
It's good work from Prieto as the Spaniard takes control of possession in midfield before floating a cross towards Griezmann, but the Frenchman just cannot gather. He shows his frustration by kicking the ball into the boards that surround the pitch. Espanyol attempt to craft down the other end with Javi Lopez
, but the Spaniard cannot find Stuani under pressure from Mikel.
Again it's good work from the away side as Griezmann finds Agirretxe down the line, but Forlin is across to quell the threat at the vital moment. The defender finds Garcia down the other end, who in turn plays in Stuani, but his low strike was always moving wide of the post. The score remains 1-0 with 25 minutes on the clock.
GOAL! Espanyol 1-1 Sociedad (Zurutuza)
Stunning, just stunning from Zurutuza. It's a mistake of sorts from Casilla as the Espanyol goalkeeper comes to punch, it falls to Zurutuza outside the penalty area, who lifts his finish into the empty net. That is technique of the highest order.
Another half-chance for the home side as Verdu whips a dangerous cross into the penalty area, Moreno is the first to react, but Zubikarai just manages to gather at the vital moment. End-to-end football as the match really begins to gather pace. I would be astounded if we did not see more goals in the remaining minutes.
There was every suggestion that this match was going to be enthralling this evening, that has certainly been the case thus far. Another half-chance falls for the away side as Bergara dances into the penalty area before striking an effort from close range, but it was always moving wide of the post. Little over 15 minutes of the first period remaining, with the score level at 1-1.
Slightly bitty period of the match in the last few moments with the referee called into action to deal with a number of challenges. It has not been an ill-mannered affair, but it has not been for the faint-hearted. Just a quick reminder that following this match we have action from Atletico Madrid against Valencia.
Good possession from the away side as they continue to pass and probe outside the penalty area, but they have not got that threat in behind without Vela. Agirretxe, who has replaced Mexican in the starting side, does create a half-chance for Griezmann as he finds the Frenchman outside the box, but his effort is wide of the post.
Verdu is again the architect for the home side as he collects possession outside the penalty area before finding Simao, the Portuguese fires another dangerous cross into the box, but this time Mikel is across to clear the danger. The resulting corner is taken by Verdu, but once more Inigo Martinez rises highest to clear.
Garcia remains the threat for Espanyol as he moves past two players before finding Verdu on the edge of the box, but Prieto comes across to quell the danger. The Spaniard looks immediately for the run of Griezmann, but the Frenchman runs down a blind alley. Little over five minutes of the first period remaining.
Sociedad are almost unrecognisable for a team that used to travel so poorly in Spain's leading division. They also had their fare share of defensive problems, but that has not been the case this season. Montanier must be praised for this brilliant run up the table. In truth, they look the better side this evening.
GOAL! Espanyol 2-1 Sociedad (Stuani)
What a lovely, lovely goal from Stuani. Again Garcia is involved as the Spaniard finds Stuani in the penalty area before the striker flicks his effort into the corner of the net. Against the run of play, but Espanyol will not mind.
Little under two minutes of the first period remaining, with the home side leading 2-1 courtesy of that strike from Stuani. There is no question that Sociedad are missing the threat of Vela, but they still have more than enough to turn this match around. It is so delicately poised as we enter the final stages of the first half.
Not too much to report in the latter stages of the first period with both sides guilty of poor passing in midfield. Sociedad will feel unlucky to enter the break behind. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional one minute at the end of the half.
HALF-TIME: Espanyol 2-1 Sociedad
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to an end with Espanyol leading 2-1. The home side had the lead early on courtesy of Sergio Garcia, but Zurutuza levelled after 24 minutes. There was time for one more strike in the first period, however, with Stuani scoring late on.
STATISTICS: Sociedad have had more of the possession with 60%, but they have managed just one attempt to Espanyol's three. It has been a well-matched first period, but Espanyol have just about shaded it. However, I suspect that we have not seen the last of the goals.
BENCH WATCH: The home side have a host of attacking options on the bench in the shape of Petrov, Longo and Alfonso. Meanwhile, Sociedad have Diego Ifran, Jose Angel and Dani Estrada in reserve. I suspect that we will see some changes in the second period.
Just a quick reminder of what we have to come this evening. Following the completion of this match we have action from the Spanish capital as Atletico Madrid welcome Valencia in arguably the most attractive fixture of the weekend. We also have both La Liga fixtures tomorrow evening. Be sure to join us for that.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch ahead of the second period. No changes for either side at the interval which is not too surprising at this stage of events. As it stands, Espanyol would move into 12th position, while Sociedad would remain fourth. The away side get the half underway.
Decent start from the away side to the second period as Bergara combines with Griezmann before driving into the penalty atea, but Moreno is across to clear at the vital moment. Both teams are playing slightly narrow this evening, which is directing all of the traffic into the middle of the pitch.
Finally the play is stretched down the left as Carlos Martinez collects a pass from Illarra before whipping a cross into the penalty area, but Colotto is across to clear at the vital moment. You just get the feeling that the next strike could be all-important in this match. No real chances for either side in the second period thus far.
End-to-end football in the last few moments as both sides continue to commit players to each attack, but neither is able to find the elusive pass in the final third. Meanwhile, Inigo Martinez becomes the latest player to have his name taken for a dangerous challenge on Verdu, who stands over the free kick.
The resulting free kick is whipped into the penalty area by Simao, but Colotto just cannot make contact under a challenge from Zubikarai. Griezmann has a half-chance down the other end after combining with Prieto, but he can only rattle his effort wide of the post.
Still no movement on either bench, although I suspect that to change in the next 10 minutes or so. Half-chance for the home side as Victor Sanchez strikes an effort from outside the box, but it was always moving wide of the target. The tempo of the match has certainly dropped in the last five minutes or so.
CHANCE! Clear opportunity for the away side to level the scores as Agirretxe collects possession in the Espanyol box before striking an effort from close range, but Casilla is across to make the save. That is the difference. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining.
The chances are just starting to fall as Verdu beats the offside trap down the other end before firing towards goal, but the Sociedad goalkeeper stands tall to quell the danger. Garcia wants a free kick outside the penalty area moments later, but for some reason the referee waves play on.
Both teams continue to pass the ball around with real quality in the middle of the park, but there has not been too many clear chances for either side. However, you just get the feeling that there are more goals in the match. Ifran would be the obvious change for Sociedad if they decided to get another attacker on the pitch in the latter stages.
Wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this evening as both sides continue to commit players to each attack. You have to wonder where Espanyol would be in the table had they started the season with Javier Aguirre leading the team. It is not entirely out of the question that they would have been challenging for a European spot. They have emerged into a really good side.
Half-chance for the away side this time as Agirretxe meets a cross from Griezmann, but Casilla is across to make a wonderful save at the vital moment. Meanwhile, the away side do indeed make the change as Ifran replaces Bergara. Little over 20 minutes of football remaining in Espanyol, with the home side leading 2-1.
Another half-chance for Sociedad as Agirretxe advances down the left before firing a low cross towards Griezmann, but the Frenchman just cannot take it in his stride at the vital moment. Still no movement on the Espanyol bench, although I expect that to change in the next 10 minutes or so. It really has been an enthralling 69 minutes of football to date.
Half-chance for the home side as Griezmann strikes an effort from outside the penalty area, but Casilla manages to punch clear, despite the ball moving in the air. The rebound falls to Prieto in the penalty area, but Forlin is across to make a wonderful challenge. Desperate defending from the home side.
Espanyol are forced into their first change of the match as Raul Rodriguez replaces the injured Victor Alvarez. Sociedad thought they had a penalty when Moreno appeared to handle in the penalty area, but the linesman has raised his flag, much to the relief of the home supporters.
The pressure remains from the away side as they force two corners in quick succession, but the first is palmed over by Casilla before Mikel heads the second over the crossbar. It is simply all one-way traffic as Sociedad continue to dominate the match, but Espanyol live to fight another day. Just about 15 minutes of football remaining.
Sociedad make another change as Ruben Pardo replaces Illarra, who has just tired in the latter stages of the second period. Another half-chance for the away side as Prieto leads a counter attack, but once more Colotto comes across to clear the danger. Nervy, nervy moments for Aguirre and his team. Can they hold on?
GOAL! Espanyol 2-2 Sociedad (Lopez OG)
The away side level with little over 10 minutes remaining as Lopez can only turn into his own net following a long pass from Prieto. It is harsh on the Spaniard, but you cannot say that it hasn't been coming. Is there time for another in the final stages?
Half-chance for the home side this time as Stuani collects possession outside the penalty area before striking an effort towards goal, but it was always straight at the goalkeeper. Griezmann is almost in down the other end moments later, but Colotto denies the Frenchman at the vital moment.
Another half-chance for Sociedad as Griezmann collects possession inside the box before poking towards the bottom corner, but it just moved wide of the post. Meanwhile, Espanyol make another change as former Bolton Wanderers midfielder Martin Petrov replaces Simao, who has struggled in the second period.
Verdu is again involved for the home side as he flicks a cross beyond the Sociedad defence, but Zubikarai comes out to collect. Espanyol make their third and final change of the match with little over five minutes remaining as Baena replaces Verdu. Strange decision for me.
Espanyol are the side pushing for the winner as we enter the final moments, with Garcia looking the most likely. Again it's good work from the striker as he combines with Petrov before meeting the resulting cross, but his header is straight at the goalkeeper. Will we have late drama here?
Both managers look on from the sidelines as we enter the final minute of normal time. In truth, a point apiece would not be the worst result for either of these two sides this evening. It would keep Sociedad in fourth position and continue Espanyol's solid run of form. But you just get the feeling that there is going to be some late drama here.
Half-chance for Griezmann once more as the Sociedad attacker advances beyond the Espanyol defence, but his effort is wide of the post, although the flag had been raised. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional four minutes of stoppage time and we are indeed into the first of those.
Not too much to report in the last couple of minutes truth be told with neither side too concerned with attacking. Espanyol have fired a few high crosses into the penalty area, but Zubikarai has been in charge on each occasion. Bar a late miracle, the points will be shared.
FULL-TIME: Espanyol 2-2 Sociedad
So there we have it. Sociedad twice come from behind to secure a point in a 2-2 draw with Espanyol. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and be sure to remain with us for Atletico against Valencia. Until then!