Wu Lei becomes 1st Chinese player to score in Spanish league

MADRID (AP) — Wu Lei netted in Espanyol’s 3-1 win against Valladolid on Saturday, becoming the first Chinese player to score in the Spanish league.

Wu found the net with a shot from inside the area in the 65th minute to seal victory, the team’s first in three league matches.

He was loudly cheered by the Espanyol crowd when he was substituted late in the match at RCDE Stadium.

The China forward has been a regular starter since signing from Chinese club Shanghai SIPG earlier this year.

“I’m moved,” Wu said. “I’m very happy with how the fans have welcomed me here. I hope I can keep scoring more goals for them.”

The 27-year-old Wu arrived as the second Chinese to join the Spanish league, after Zhang Chengdong played briefly for Rayo Vallecano in the 2015-16 season. Wu is already the Chinese with the most minutes ever in the league.

Striker Borja Iglesias opened the scoring for Espanyol with a goal less than 20 seconds into the match in the city of Barcelona. Ruben Alcaraz equalized in the 17th, and Mario Hermoso put the hosts ahead again in the 55th.

Wu scored two goals in this year’s Asian Cup, where the Chinese were eliminated by Iran in the quarterfinals. He was the Chinese league’s Golden Boot winner last year, and its top Chinese scorer for five straight seasons.

Espanyol, owned by a Chinese businessman, moved to 11th in the 20-team standings.

Valladolid, owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, stayed 16th, not far from the relegation zone. It has lost three in a row and hasn’t won in five rounds.

Leader Barcelona plays against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium later on Saturday in the third meeting between the rivals in less than a month.

Barcelona eliminated Madrid from the Copa del Rey with a 3-0 win at the Bernabeu on Wednesday. It is nine points in front of Madrid in the league, and seven ahead of second-place Atletico Madrid, which visits Real Sociedad on Sunday.