Espanyol capped its centenary celebrations by winning the Spanish Cup with a 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid on Saturday. One of the cheekiest goals seen in Spain all season gave the Barcelona club an ideal start after just two minutes. Atletico goalkeeper Toni Jimenez — who moved to the club from Espanyol last summer — saved a shot by Toni Velamazan and was bouncing the ball in front of him, ready to boot it upfield. But then Raul Tamudo nipped in unseen, headed the ball away from Jimenez and beat his former team mate in a sprint across the face f the goal, turning the ball in from an narrow angle out on the left.
Sergio Gonzalez hit Espanyol’s second goal five minutes from time to ensure the club won its first honor for 60 years Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink pulled one back for Atletico a minute into injury time, and Espanyol endured an anxious couple of minutes as the clocked ticked away, but it was too little too late. Espanyol ecstasy For Espanyol supporters, it brought a huge smile to their faces after a decade of despair. They were relegated twice during the 1990s and even had to ell their ground — the historic Sarria stadium — in 1997 to solve a cash crisis.
However Espanyol’s veteran defender Nando Munoz put the emotions of all those involved with the club into words. “This might be the greatest day in the history of Espanyol. This is for all those fans and everyone else who can remember the bad times — all those dire moments,” Nando said. Nando had recovered enough breath to speak to Spanish to reporters because he had been given his marching orders 13 minutes from time after picking up two yellow cards n quick succession while Espanyol fought to contain a second half Atletico comeback.
Atletico attack The first half belonged to Espanyol, with Tamudo and Velamazan causing plenty of problems for the Atletico defenders and Moises Arteaga slicing through the middle, but the second period saw Atletico strive for an equalizer. Hasselbaink was a constant threat, although Espanyol defenders did a good job of soaking up the pressure, and his closest efforts came from edge-of-the-area free kicks. After Nando left the field, Espanyol looked briefly n trouble, but both teams ended the match with 10 men after former Spanish international defender Santi Denia lost control completely seven minutes from time.
Denia scythed down Manuel Serrano from the rear and then headbutted Toni Velamazan. Sergio’s clincher came two minutes later. Tears He controlled a long, speculative, ball forward with his head and then blasted the half-volley past the hapless Jimenez, who left the field inconsolable. “Football just isn’t fair,” Jimenez wailed, with tears streaming down his face. Jimenez was not he only Atletico player to leave the field with moist eyes.
The cup final defeat, their second in successive years after losing 3-0 to Valencia last year, brought an end to one of the worst season’s in club history. Atletico was relegated and will spend next season in the Spanish second division for the first time since 1934. A damaging government investigation into the club finances also left the club badly demoralized on and off the field. The cup final is likely to be the last match that many players, including Hasselbaink, have in an Atletico jersey, with a massive exodus anticipated.