Real Madrid gets the away win against Espanyol
Updated: Jun 30, 2020
June 28, 2020.
Real Madrid wins away from home against Espanyol and goes top of La Liga table.
Starting XI: Thibaut Courtois, Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos (C), Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Fede Valverde, Isco, Eden Hazard, and Karim Benzema.
Real Madrid traveled to Barcelona to face RCD Espanyol in game week 32 of La Liga. Zinedine Zidane continued his squad rotations and decided to give Isco his first start since the Pandemic break.
He also started Marcelo in place of the suspended Ferland Mendy and Toni Kroos was back in the lineup after coming in as a substitute against Mallorca. Madridistas were seeing this combination of starting eleven for the first time since the Champions League group stage match against PSG.
Espanyol started on the front foot by earning an early freekick. Adrian Embarbo's effort went straight to Thibaut Courtois. Soon after the Catalan side found themselves in another goal-scoring opportunity. Sergi Darder pounced on a loose ball in the box and took a shot at goal following a Wu Lei's cross. Dani Carvajal made a vital block to prevent what looked like a sure goal.
It was Real Madrid's turn to take a shot at Espanyol's goal. First, Casemiro tried to catch Diego Lopez out of his line. The Spanish goalkeeper scrambled back and kept the ball out. Minutes later, Casermiro once again amid the action as he smashed a loose ball towards the goal, and Sergio Ramos met the ball with a header, but it carried over the bar.
The Merengues defensive midfielder once again found himself in a goal-scoring position, but once again, Casemiro's header flew over the bar.
After a chaotic first 15 minutes, things slowed down as Real Madrid found their footing and started maintaining possession. Casemiro's vision found Isco with a lovely pass, but the little magician was unable to bring the ball down.
On the other end, Wu found himself in space and took a shot at the goal that flew over to the stands. Espanyol played in an organized 4-4-2 formation. They kept things tight at the back and allowed very little space for Real Madrid.
Karim Benzema created some space for himself at the edge of the box and sent a beautiful curler at goal. Diego Lopez was up to the task and made an excellent save. A few minutes later, Isco delivered an inviting cross, creating chaos in the box. The ball eventually fell into Eden Hazard's feet, but the Belgian's attempt is kept out by a diving Lopez.
Right before the halftime whistle, Ramos noded down a header into Benzema's path following Marcelo's crossfield switch. The French forward held the ball up at the edge of the six-yard box and does a magical backheel pass through the legs of the defender to Casemiro. The Brazilian midfielder converted it into the back of the net as Los Blancos take the lead going into halftime.
Halftime (Espanyol 0 - 1 Real Madrid)
Real Madrid started the second half much better. They looked sharper and more in control. However, Espanyol had the first attempt at goal when Wu guided the ball towards the goal. Courtois made a routine save to keep the score at 0-1.
Los Blancos were playing with fluidity and switched play from one wing to another at ease. Isco picked Benzema with a fabulous cross, but the French forward's attempt at goal from a tight angle was straight to Lopez.
Zidane made his first two substitutions in the 64th minute bringing in Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo to replace Isco and Hazard.
Raul De Tomas forced Courtois into a fine save with his freekick effort.
The Merengues were in control for the last 15 minutes. Espanyol did not look threatening going forward. Except, Los Blancos had a nervy ending at the last kick of the game as a Jonathan Calleri's pullback is cleared by Marcelo.
Final Score (Espanyol 0 - 1 Real Madrid)
Real Madrid came out with a much-needed win away from home to go clear on top of the table. Espanyol played in organized blocks and made things difficult for Los Blancos. The Merengues got better in the second half and controlled the game for most parts.
They were not able to break the Catalan side's defensive structure often but still managed to create enough chances to have an xG of 2.42, according to www.understat.com. Zidane's team is now five wins in five, and they need to continue winning their matches to keep the title hopes alive.
Three Stars of the match
Casemiro: Casemiro often gets the applause for his defensive contribution, but he earned man of the match against Espanyol for his offensive contribution. He scored the game-winner and was involved in four big attacking sequences.
Karim Benzema: Benzema's majestic backheel nutmeg set up Casemiro's game-winner. It will go down as one of the best assists of the season.
Marcelo: He had his best game since La Liga resumed. He worked hard and was involved in the buildup to the opening goal. He also put in thorough defensive numbers with three successful tackles and three interceptions in the match.