RCD Espanyol remain unbeaten in this season's UEFA Cup after booking their place in the knockout rounds with a 2-0 away win against an AFC Ajax side who look set to join them in the last 32.
The Spanish club's third victory in as many Group F matches – which came courtesy of goals from Walter Pandiani and Ferrán Corominas - leaves them almost certain to go through as group winners, with Ajax following unless they lose heavily at Belgian rivals SV Zulte Waregem on 13 December.
Despite scoring either side of half-time in Amsterdam, Espanyol needed to show defensive mettle to secure this impressive result. Visiting keeper Gorka Iraizoz had to save a Wesley Sneijder free-kick before denying Gabri inside the first 20 minutes. Then another Catalan player was left frustrated by the team from Barcelona, as Pandiani blocked Roger García's first effort and Iraizoz the second, from a corner.
Espanyol had scored six goals in their previous outing – a 6-2 rout of Zulte Waregem – and showed the same clinical edge on 36 minutes when Pandiani drilled a shot past Maarten Stekelenburg from just inside the penalty area following Mohamed El Yaagoubi's surge down the left. Ajax's prolific marksman Klaas Jan Huntelaar tried to respond in kind but his overhead kick from Mauro Rosales's cross was kept out by Iraizoz.
The custodian then excelled himself with stops from Sneijder and substitute Jan Vertonghen, in the latter instance turning a long-range strike around his post. If the Espanyol advantage had been slender, it became substantial in the 78th minute when Corominas scored from close in after Stekelenburg failed to hold a stinging drive from Pandiani. The next goal for Espanyol: to continue their 100 per cent record against FK Austria in two weeks' time.