Chinese striker Wu Lei, who tested positive for Coronavirus in March, scored on his first game back on Saturday as Espanyol sealed a morale-boosting 2-0 win over Alaves in La Liga.
Espanyol looked doomed to relegation as they restarted six points adrift of safety after three months away but Wu’s excellent performance has given them renewed hope of survival.
It marks a particularly impressive return for the 28-year-old, who was one of six Espanyol players to be diagnosed with the virus in March, with the Chinese Football federation confirming Wu had “mild symptoms”.
But he looked sharp at the empty RCDE Stadium. He hurried Alaves goalkeeper Fernandes Pacheco into a mistake in the 19th minute when, under pressure from Wu, he handled outside the box and was sent off.
Wu then had a goal ruled out for handball himself before applying a cool finish from a one-on-one early in the second half. In between, Bernardo Espinosa put Espanyol in front just before the break.
“He was decisive,” said Espanyol coach Abelardo Fernandez when asked about Wu afterwards.
“He caused the sending off and he scored the second goal. He did everything we asked him to do, he stretched their defence. He did his job perfectly.”
Wu joined Espanyol from Shanghai SIPG in January last year, when he said he wanted to prove China’s best players could deliver at the highest level.
He has already scored 10 goals this season for the Catalonia-based club and in January became the first Chinese player to score against Barcelona in a 2-2 draw with the reigning Spanish champions.
The state-run China Global Television Network said Wu’s goal heralded “a new chapter” for Football in the country.