RCD Espanyol will take a one-goal advantage back to Spain after a convincing display although AS Livorno Calcio kept alive their hopes of reaching the Round of 16 with a late goal at the Armando Picchi stadium.
Livorno seemed to suffer in the early stages as they adapted to playing without the support of their home crowd following the Italian authorities' decision to play the game behind closed doors. Mohamed El Yaagoubi volleyed wide after two minutes and Eduardo Costa fired just over five minutes later as the visitors probed. But Espanyol finally made breakthrough in the 28th minute.
Referee Stéphane Lannoy awarded a penalty to the Barcelona club when Jesús María Lacruz was bundled over by Cristiano Lucarelli following a corner. Walter Pandiani scored from the spot to notch his eighth goal in the UEFA Cup this season, thereby becoming Espanyol's all-time record marksman in Europe. Lucarelli nearly responded but his header flashed wide, and chances for the Serie A side were sporadic.
Ernesto Valverde's team nearly doubled their lead on 54 minutes when Daniel Jarque nodded against a post, yet Livorno's respite was short-lived. Five minutes later, Jarque's long pass released El Yaagoubi and the midfielder coolly beat Marco Amelia. Daniele Arrigoni's men appeared down and out but Fabio Galante headed home with nine minutes left to give the hosts a glimmer of hope ahead of the second leg in Catalonia next week.