China international Wu Lei scored the goal that clinched Spain's final Europa League berth for Espanyol in a nail-biting end to the season. The 2-0 victory over Real Sociedad in the last round of La Liga saw Espanyol jump from 9th to 7th in the table on 53 points, leapfrogging Sociedad and pipping Athletic Bilbao on goal difference.
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, his third goal for Espanyol in 16 appearances. An excited Wu removed his jersey to celebrate with the fans. He was substituted in the 80th minute to thunderous applause from the packed home crowd, before being hoisted aloft on shoulders at the final whistle.
Watch below Wu Lei's performance during the game against Real Sociedad (VPN off):
"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’m very glad to have the chance to take on other European clubs."
Wu will now undergo surgery on his left shoulder ligament, taking a six-week break and missing two friendly matches of the Chinese national team in June. Espanyol’s last-gasp entry into the Europa League also means the club has to adjust its summer schedule, including canceling a match scheduled on July 27 in Kunshan, Jiangsu province.
For fans wishing to follow's Wu's European adventure, Espanyol’s Europa League first-round qualifiers will be on July 25 and August 1; second-round matches on August 8 and 15 and third-round games on August 22 and 29.
[Cover image via Xinhua]