BARCELONA – Sergio Garcia scored the winner seven minutes from time as Espanyol beat Sporting Gijon in a thoroughly entertaining match at El Molinon.
The visitors were in front within the first two minutes as a lightening quick counter-attack sent Thievy Bifouma clear and his shot was too good for Juan Pablo in the Sporting goal.
Espanyol were well in control of the game but failed to build on their lead and were punished as Diego Barral flicked in a corner at the near post to bring Sporting level on the hour mark.
Thereafter it was end to end with both teams wasting a host of good chances to take the lead until Garcia latched onto Alvaro Vasquez's flick on and thundered a volley past Pablo to leave Sporting in the relegation zone.
Thievy has been rested in recent weeks by Mauricio Pochettino, with the Argentine coach stressing the importance of managing the 19-year-old Frenchman's workload, but he certainly looked sharp as he raced onto Vladimir Weiss' pass, turned the Sporting defence and fired accurately into the far corner.
Joan Verdu came closest to extending Espanyol's lead as he was first denied by Pablo and then dragged his shot wide from the edge of the area before half-time. However after the break a rejuvenated Sporting were level when Barral produced a wonderfully delicate finish at the near post to flick the ball between Thievy and Cristian Alvarez who were positioned on the goal line.
The equaliser meant the game became increasingly stretched. Barral and Miguel de las Cuevas had efforts beaten away by Alvarez, whilst Garcia, Alvaro and Ndri Romaric all should have done better than firing straight at Pablo.
The winner did eventually arrive for Espanyol after 83 minutes as Garcia stayed just onside to meet Alvaro's flicked header with a left-foot volley that left Pablo stranded.
There was time for more drama though as Sporting had a goal disallowed in the final minutes when Ivan Hernandez was adjudged to be in an offside position.