RCD Espanyol moved a step closer to their first UEFA Cup final in 19 years with a ruthless 3-0 semi-final first-leg win against a Werder Bremen side who had goalkeeper Tim Wiese sent off early in the second half.
Wiese was dismissed for bringing down Raúl Tamudo just outside the area on 58 minutes but by then Espanyol were already two goals in front through headers from Moisés Hurtado and Walter Pandiani either side of half-time. Substitute Ferrán Corominas added a potentially decisive third in the closing moments and the only downside for Ernesto Valverde's team came with bookings for Hurtado and Pandiani, who together with Wiese and Clemens Fritz, will miss next week's return in Bremen.
If Espanyol's midfield looked to single out Bremen's in-form playmaker Diego for particularly close attention during the opening exchanges, their focus shifted upfield on the quarter hour as Iván de la Peña's shot was charged down by Frank Baumann. That stirred the home supporters and their cheers became a roar in the 20th minute when Espanyol went ahead. De la Peña played a short corner to Francisco Rufete and the midfielder's cross was headed beyond Wiese by defender Hurtado.
The visitors almost responded immediately when Aaron Hunt found Diego in the area with a clever knockdown and the Brazilian laid the ball back to Torsten Frings, whose powerful strike from the edge of the box was turned wide by the outstretched right hand of Gorka Iraizoz. The Spanish custodian had been Espanyol's hero in the last round against SL Benfica and had to be alert soon afterwards when Naldo nodded Frings's corner towards goal.
Bremen continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and Diego again caused problems in the home area when he held off two challenges and found Frings on the right, whose low cross narrowly eluded the lunging legs of both Bremen's No10 and Miroslav Klose. Despite the German club's dominance, Espanyol always appeared threatening on the break. Only a spectacular save by Wiese prevented Jesús María Lacruz scoring with a fierce long-range effort on 40 minutes, while on the stroke of half-time Albert Riera's goalbound volley hit Naldo on the head before deflecting over.
Pandiani makes it eleven
Espanyol had won their six previous home fixtures in this campaign and they were on their way to a seventh when Pandiani doubled their advantage five minutes after the interval from another De la Peña set-piece. The shaven-headed midfielder's inswinging corner was met at the near post by Pandiani who sent the slightest of glancing headers over Wiese for his eleventh goal of the tournament.
Bad to worse
For Thomas Schaaf's visitors, things went from bad to worse eight minutes later with Wiese's red card for upending Tamudo as he raced clear. Reserve keeper Andreas Reinke came on for Daniel Jensen and the Bremen No1 was called into action at once to stop Marc Torrejón's free-kick. By now it was damage limitation time for Bremen, who brought Hunt back into midfield as they sought to diminish the blue-and-white onslaught. Yet although Reinke repelled Rufete's low, angled drive with a fantastic save, Coro coolly finished a deadly counterattack involving Riera and Tamudo to cap a memorable night for Espanyol.