All square in AST Cup
An action-packed encounter ended all square as Cambridge United and Espanyol played out an entertaining 2-2 draw in this afternoon’s Absolute Sports Travel Cup clash.
Espanyol, who hit the woodwork three times in the first half, took a 27th minute lead through Marc Gual. But Tom Elliott headed in to equalise eight minutes later, then put United in front just after half-time with a cool finish. The U’s were on top for much of the second half, but substitute Borja Martinez equalised ten minutes from time with a break-away goal.
Richard Money named one trialist in his starting line-up, former Mansfield midfielder Anthony Howell joining skipper Tom Champion and Luke Chadwick in the centre of midfield as the U’s started out in a 3-5-2 formation.
This soon changed to a 4-4-2 after the visitors enjoyed several profitable forays down the flanks in the opening minutes, culminating in a curling effort from Pol Llonch which dipped over Chris Dunn but struck the cross bar.
Espanyol's intricate passing football was a joy to watch, and Marc Roca then came close with an almost identical effort to Llonch's shot, albeit from the opposite side of the pitch. With Dunn again beaten, the ball clipped the angle of post bar and rebounded behind.
So it was no surprise when the visitors hit the front through Gual. A fine move in from the left flank involving Adria Carmona and Jose Antoni Ruiz looked to have been dealt with by the U’s defence, but an attempted Coulson clearance smacked against Gual and rebounded into the net.
But United levelled matters in the 35th minute. Elliott was fouled on the left hand side, then was in the right place to meet a wicked free kick from Donaldson and head home from eight yards.
Espanyol could have regained the lead immediately, but Llonch was left holding his head once more after his shot from substitute Ivan Sales’ pull back came back off the foot of the upright.
And they were made to pay for their profligacy just after half-time, when Elliott put United in front with a goal all of his own making. The big striker sprinted down the left flank from half-way, then cut into the box before side-footing the ball past Ruiz.
Where the visitors had dominated the first period, United had far more of the ball after the break, causing problems through the pace of Dunk and the power of Elliott and half-time substitute Delano Sam-Yorke. Elliott looked buoyed by his double strike, and saw a volley from Dunk’s cross blocked, before he took aim from 25 yards and struck a floated effort just over.
A raft of substitutions disrupted the flow of the game somewhat, though youngsters Matt Lowe and Bobby-Joe Taylor impressed down the United right with some determined play.
But it was Espanyol who had the final say, breaking clear down their right, with substitute Pol Mikel Lirola racing clear and squaring for Martinez to slot past the exposed Dunn.
United will be back in action tomorrow, when they take on Shaktar Donetsk in their second match of the weekend, 5pm. Before that, Espanyol will take on West Ham United, 2pm. A Sunday day ticket, covering both matches, is £15 for adults, £10 for concessions and £30 for a family ticket.
Cambridge United: Dunn, Tait (Hughes 45), Taylor (Hunt 57), Coulson (Berry 45), Bonner, Chadwick (Sam-Yorke 45), Dunk (Austin 57), Bonner, Howell (Whittall 57), Donaldson (Lowe 68), Elliott (Taylor 65). Subs not used: Norris, Bevins.
Espanyol: Jorge Ruiz, Correa, Martinez, Rodriguez (Lopez 65), Raillo, Llonch, Gual (Sales 36), Jose Antoni Ruiz, Carmona (Martinez 57), Roca (Martin 45), Luque (Lirola 65). Subs not used: Navarro, Diaz.
Referee: Fred Graham