Villarreal (Spain), Jan 10 (IANS) Villarreal scored twice in the final five minutes of regulation to salvage a 2-2 draw with Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey knockout stage tie.
Espanyol, eighth in LaLiga, on Wednesday set the tone in the opening minutes at La Ceramica against relegation-bound Villarreal, reports Efe news.
Sergi Darder exploited a Villarreal giveaway to put the visitors ahead 1-0 in the 15th minute.
This spurred the hosts into action and Espanyol goalkeeper Sergi Roberto was tested on the ensuing sequence by a powerful header from Alvaro Gonzalez.
Darder came close to doubling the lead with a shot that grazed the crossbar a few minutes before Villarreal saw Alfonso Pedraza’s goal disallowed because the ball touched teammate Karl Toko Ekambi, who was offside.
Espanyol created two more opportunities late in the first half as Roberto Rosales forced a save from Villarreal keeper Andres Fernandez and Darder fired just outside the post.
The home side were better on the attack after the break and the minutes on either side of the hour mark saw a succession of chances at both ends.
Fernandez thwarted Esteban Granero in the 62nd minute, leading to an opportunity at the opposite end for Villarreal’s Carlos Bacca.
But with 20 minutes left, the hosts’ best chance came to nothing when Bacca lost the a man-to-man tackle to Roberto, just before Espanyol boosted their lead to 2-0 with a goal by Alex Lopez.
Yet Villarreal continued to press and narrowed the deficit with Ekambi’s goal in the 85th minute, followed four minutes later by Bacca’s equaliser.