The day-to-day bustle of Cornellà de Llobregat ceased as the evening sun cast its golden glow on the red-bricked streets. Before long, rambunctious football fans roamed, filling the air with passionate song.
It was a Europa League matchday. The local football club, RCD Espanyol, were playing host to Wolverhampton Wanderers in a round-of-32 second-leg tie; one which had been rendered virtually invalid following the latter’s insurmountable aggregate advantage from the reverse fixture.
Despite laying over five miles from the Camp Nou, Espanyol have always operated in the shadows of their Catalonian compatriots and city namesakes; FC Barcelona. This results in a strong fanbase, who passionately support the underdogs of the city, as opposed to the iconic, world-beating side down the road.
The Blanquiazules ply their trade at the imaginatively named RCDE Stadium. It is a beautiful example of modern architecture, having opened a little over a decade ago. Thousands were descending on the arena (which was completed with pristine glasswork and vivid blue and white lights), taking in the unique surroundings, including a shopping centre only several metres eastward.
It was half-an-hour until kick-off, and the noise spilling onto the neighbourhood from inside was deafening. Wolves had sold out the away end, and were in fine voice. However, problems arose when the hundreds of Wanderers fans who had travelled without tickets to the match turned to the touts outside the ground, and soon found themselves in the home stands.
Once the battle had cooled in the stands, things hotted up on the pitch. Those who had not been forcibly removed from the premises were treated to an end-to-end war of attrition, as both teams found themselves level-pegging right until the death.
In injury time, Jonathan Calleri rounded off his impressive hat-trick with a delightful, towering header into the far corner. It was too little, too late for Espanyol who, despite winning 3-2 on the night, still succumbed to a 3-6 aggregate loss.
They bowed out of the competition, leaving only their La Liga campaign to focus on. Espanyol sit rock-bottom of Spanish football’s elite tier, five points from safety, and needing nothing short of a miracle to turn their fortunes around.
Following the match, the 14,000 in attendance walked together towards the metro station. The fighting had come to an end, and the home supporters had accepted their club’s fate. Only English voices could be heard – still singing as the travelling contingent began their long trek back to the Black Country.