With both sides looking to turn a season of mediocrity into a distant Europa League push, it was Espanyol who came from behind to beat Real Sociedad 2-1 as the dream of Europe seeks reality.
La Real took the lead with a goal from Willian Jose just before the break but strikes by Leo Baptistao and Gerard Moreno heaped further misery onto Eusebio’s Sociedad, who have not won any of their last ten away matches.
The loss leaves them placed 13th two points behind Espanyol in 12th and with Quique Flores’ side drawing five of their last six, they needed a victory to create the momentum they need to close the four point gap between them and Europe.
While Esteban Granero and Pablo Piatti continued in midfield, goalkeeper Pau Lopez started in goal as Diego Lopez is not likely to return until the end of the month.
Sociedad were without Kevin which allowed Alberto de la Bella no competition at left-back and Willian Jose returned up front after sitting out for a month with a broken toe.
It was the visitors to started the brighter with Juanmi making Lopez’s dive low however it took 41 minutes until Sociedad made a breakthrough.
A slip by centre-back Duarte allowed Jose to pick the ball up on the edge of the box and he ventured into the opposing area unchallenged before beating Lopez at his near post.
Having been on the sidelines for a month prior to the clash, the finish marked his 12th for the season matching the tally he set last season.
Despite their clinical prowess, Sociedad did not hold onto their lead for long, only six minutes into the second-half had passed before Bapstistao volleyed home the equaliser from what Sociedad supporters may claim to be an offside position.
An exquisite over the top ball by Granero left Sociedad’s defence powerless and all that was left for Baptistao to do was fire past the helpless Moya.
The Brazilian forward caused the opposing team problems all afternoon and it was his persistence which proved the difference for Espanyol’s second.
After initially losing out on the right wing, the 25-year-old applied pressure to win the ball back and drove a pass into the feet of Moreno, who stood before Moya deep in the six yard box and the Spanish goalkeeper was adjudged to have knocked the striker down.
Although Moreno was almost denied his 14th goal of the season, his spot kick was tame and Moya managed to get a glove to the first effort but the former Villarreal striker was quick to turn the rebound in.
Espanyol have now only lost once in their previous seven La Liga home games and look in good stead for their away clash against Real Betis in the league next Saturday.
Despite the defeat La Real can still take heart from the fact they are only six points behind a Europa spot and host more mid-table opposition when Getafe travel to the Anoeta in a week’s time.
Espanyol: Pau López, Navarro, Lopez, Duarte, Aaron, Granero, Carlos Sanchez, Víctor Sánchez, Piatti, Baptistao. Moreno
Real Sociedad: Moya, Odriozola, Llorente, Moreno, De la Bella, Illarramendi, Zubeldia, , Canales, Oyarzabal, Willian Jose, Juanmi