Christian Stuani tallies brace as Espanyol cruise past Almeria
Christian Stuani scored a brace and Felipe Caicedo was on target yet again to give Espanyol a comfortable 3-0 victory over struggling Almeria.
Stuani struck twice in the space of three minutes towards the end of the first half and then after the break substitute Caicedo hit a fifth goal in four matches to put the game beyond doubt and seal a fourth consecutive home win for the Catalans in all competitions.
Sergio Gonzalez’s side move up to ninth in the Primera Division table after the win, 10 points clear of Almeria, who occupy the final spot in the relegation zone.
Gonzalez made just one change from the team that had beaten Celta Vigo here last week, replacing suspended full-back Anaitz Arbilla with Javi Lopez.
Almeria’s only change from the team that lost 3-2 at Valencia was also a full-back, with Michel Macedo replacing Sebastian Dubarbier.
Neither team looked willing to take any risks in the opening minutes of the game, but Almeria captain Corona had the first attempt on goal, a looping header which went a couple of feet over the bar.
Espanyol’s first effort was also a header and it very nearly put them in front. Salva Sevilla picked out Stuani and the the Uruguayan’s attempt beat goalkeeper Julian Cuesta but crashed off the bar.
Sergio Garcia as ever was Espanyol’s liveliest player and later created space to shoot from outside the area, but sent the ball sailing over.
The former Spain international was more effective creating goals than scoring them. He persisted down the right hand side and after seeing two crosses blocked he chipped the ball in towards Stuani, who leapt higher than Fran Velez to head home from inside the six yard box.
Espanyol were just about worthy of their lead and three minutes later they scored again thanks to some lax defending from the visitors.
Garcia again had the ball at his feet on the right hand side and sent a low pass across the box. Lucas Vazquez ghosted ahead of Angel Trujillo and nudged it into the path of Stuani, who overpowered Velez again to bury the ball in the far corner.
Garcia could have added a third just before the break when he twisted his way into the box but blasted wide of the near post.
Almeria coach Juan Ignacio Martinez introduced experienced midfielder Fernando Soriano after the break but the change did little to alter the balance of the game, and instead it was two Espanyol substitutes that created the game’s final goal.
Victor Sanchez launched a chipped pass from his own half for Caicedo to run on to and the Ecuadorian raced past a hapless Fran Velez before sticking the ball into the far corner.