Pandiani rescues win for wasteful Espanyol
Substitute Walter Pandiani scored the only goal as Espanyol defeated Real Betis 1-0 to move up to sixth place in La Liga.
The hosts had the better of the early exchanges, but rarely threatened the Betis goal and had goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez to thank for being level at half-time. The Argentinian keeper made three smart saves from Benat Etxebarria, Jose Canas and Roque Santa Cruz just before the break.
Alvaro Vasquez had a number of opportunities early in the second period, but failed to hit the target and it was his replacement Pandiani who made the vital contribution with a powerful downward header from Didac Vila's cross.
Espanyol came into the game on the back of two victories and started the brighter of the two sides. Alvaro had the first opportunity of the match, but delayed after being played through by Sergio Garcia and allowed Mario to slide in and clear.
Javi Marquez was next to threaten, but his long-range volley was comfortably turned away by Casto before Alvaro was denied a penalty shout.
Joan Verdu then forced Casto into his first really good save with another volleyed effort from just outside the box that the keeper parried at full stretch.
However, after a poor opening quarter Betis then came close on four occasions before the break. Ruben Castro's shot first deflected inches wide before Cristian Alvarez was forced into flying saves from Benat, Canas and Santa Cruz. For the latter though the Paraguayan striker ought to have squared the ball to the unmarked Castro for an easy finish.
The hosts started the second-half as they had the first and Alvaro failed on three occassions to hit the target when in good positions. His best chance came after 62 minutes from another excellent ball in by Didac, but the Spain Under-21 international side-footed well wide of Casto's left-hand post.
Pandiani replaced Alvaro after 70 minutes and took just four minutes to show the youngster where he had been going wrong as the Uruguayan powered in a header from another wonderful Didac cross from 18 yards.
Betis were poor in the second period and offered little by way of a response to going behind as they slumped to their fifth consecutive defeat.