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May 20, 2019

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Wu helps Espanyol claim qualifier spot in Europa

China international Wu Lei scored on Saturday to help Espanyol clinch the final spot in Europa League qualifiers. The qualification, however, might force the La Liga side to cancel its preseason China trip in July.

The 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad in the last round of La Liga allowed Espanyol to jump from 9th to 7th in the table on 53 points. The club is returning to Europe after more than a decade and Wu will have an even bigger stage to show off his skills following his transfer from Shanghai SIPG to the La Liga side at the end of the Chinese Super League season last year.

Wu scored the second goal at RCDE Stadium, which was also the Chinese top scorer’s third goal for Espanyol in 16 appearances. An excited Wu removed his jersey to celebrate. He was substituted in the 80th minute to thunderous applause from the packed home crowd.

“It has always been my dream to play abroad. After half a year here, I’m getting the chance to play in the Europa League next season, which will be a great experience for me,” Wu said after the match. “I will be able to learn a lot. There will be more matches to play and I am very glad to have the chance to take on other European clubs.”

Three goals and one assist in 16 matches are not a stellar record for a striker. But for Wu, who has not had proper rest in the past 18 months and had to play with an injured left shoulder, it’s an acceptable performance.

According to Spanish media, Wu will have surgery on his left shoulder ligament on Thursday. He will take a six-week break and will miss two friendly matches of the Chinese national team in June.

Espanyol’s last-minute entry into the Europa League also means the club has to adjust its summer schedule, including canceling a commercial match set for July 27 in Kunshan, Jiangsu Province.

Espanyol’s Europa League first-round qualifiers will be on July 25-August 1.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s harrowing season came to a fittingly miserable end yesterday as it slumped to a staggering 12th La Liga defeat, losing 0-2 at home to Real Betis as many fans left the stadium early and those who stayed booed the players off the pitch, Reuters reported.

With Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Thibaut Courtois all sitting on the bench, Betis forward Loren Moron put the visitors in front in the 61st, completing a sweeping counter-attack by slamming the ball into the roof of the net from close range.

Former Real forward Jese Rodriguez sealed the victory for Betis, which finished the season 10th in the standings but has earned away victories at the Nou Camp and the Santiago Bernabeu, by tapping into the net unmarked in the 75th.

Real ended the campaign third in the standings on 68 points, its lowest total since the 2001-02 season, while it lost 12 league games for the first time since the 1998-99 campaign.

Real finished eight points behind runner-up Atletico Madrid and is 18 behind champion Barcelona, which was visiting Eibar later in the evening.


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