Espanyol 0-2 Real Madrid: match report and goals, LaLiga Santander matchday 4
Goals from Karim Benzema and a resurgent James Rodriguez helped Real Madrid secure a 2-0 win over a resilient Espanyol side in Cornellà.
Real Madrid secured a hard-fought 2-0 win over Espanyol in Barcelona on Sunday night to maintain their 100% start to the season and leave them top of the LaLiga table after four games. The win also sees coach Zinedine Zidane equal Pep Guardiola's record of 16 straight LaLiga wins set with Barcelona back in 2010-11.
Zidane made a number of changes to the side that beat Sporting Lisbon in midweek, a number of them enforced. With both Cristiano and Bale missing, Karim Benzema started alongside Lucas Vázquez and Marco Asensio upfront while James, making his first start in 134 days, came in for Toni Kroos in midfield.
Real Madrid started slowly. They lost Casemiro to injury after just twenty minutes and both Pepe and Sergio Ramos looked uncertain at the back, gifting Espanyol a number of chances that they failed to convert. In fact, Ramos was lucky not to be sent off just before the half hour mark after he fortunately escaped a second yellow card for blocking a shot from Hernán Pérez with his hands.
But just it when seemed that the teams would go in level at the break, a goal in first half stoppage time from James - who fought his way through a couple of challenges on the edge of the area before unleashing a low driving shot into the bottom right corner - put Real Madrid in the driving seat.
With the visitors 1-0 up, the play settled in the second half and Espanyol struggled to create chances. Karim Benzema doubled Real Madrid's lead with 20 minutes to go and finally put the game beyond the home side. Zidane will be pleased to have come out of this fixture with a solid win, especially bearing in mind the much-changed line-up, and can now look ahead to the visit of Villarreal in midweek.
Full Time: Espanyol 0-2 Real Madrid
Peeeeep! That's full-time in Cornellà: Espanyol 0-2 Real Madrid. Not a classic, but a good win in the end for Zinedine Zidane's men.
Min 90 | The fourth official signals that we'll have 2 minutes of stoppage time.
Min 88 | Real Madrid are just playing out the clock here. This game looks dead and buried. the Espanyol fans certainly think so - lots of empty seats in the stands now.
Min 84 | Dani Carvajal goes in the book and he's not happy. Soon after Real Madrid win a free kick right on the edge of the box after Diop brings down Lucas Vázquez right on the edge of the box. Sergio Ramos fires in a shot but it's straight into the hands of Diego López.
Min 82 | Espanyol make their third change. Marc Roca goes off for Diego Reyes.
Min 79 | Baptistao gets a shot in from the outside of the box but it trickles harmlessly wide.
Min 74 | Uyyyyy! Felipe Caicedo finds himself in front of goal but his shot takes a deflection and is acrobatically tipped over the bar by former Espanyol fan favourite Kiko Casilla. Espanyol really have their work cut out now. They're two down with just a quarter of an hour to go and they need to be taking chances like those.
Min 71 | Scoring that goal was the last thing Benzema will do tonight. Álvaro Morata was already warming up on the touchline and he trots on to replace the Frenchman before play resumes.
Min 70 | Gooooooool!! Karim Benzema!! Madrid lead 2-0!! Dani Carvajal flies down the right and threads it forward to Lucas Vázquez. Vázquez deftly controls and slots it across goal to Benzema who finishes confidently into the bottom right corner.
Min 66 | Lucas Vázquez battles his way into the box but his square pass to Isco is intercepted. The interception is deflected straight to Benzema who forces a save from Diego López.The visitors quickly regain possession and work it forward but Benzema's shot at goal is saved by López once again.
Min 65 | Second change for Espanyol. Gerard Moreno goes off to bre replaced by former Manchester City man Felipe Caicedo.
Min 63 | Espanyol work their way into the box but the Pérez whiffs his shot before going down in a heap after what looked like a forceful arm from Sergio Ramos. Or Sergio 'Manos'... No foul.
Min 62 | Isco is indeed the next man on; James makes way.
Min 61 | It looks like Isco could be about to come on for Real Madrid. He's having a bit of a chat with Zidane. meanwhile, Hernán Pérez finds himself with space just outside the Espanyol box but his shot flies well over the bar.
Min 59 | Uyyyyy! Madrid almost got a second there! James feeds Lucás Vazquez on the right whose cross loops across the face of goal. It looks like it's gone too far but Marco Asensio cuts it back for Benzema who fires in a powerful shot at goal on the turn. Diego López shows excellent reflexes to block the ball and Espanyol clear.
Min 58 | Hernán Pérez is down injured after he was caught late by James. No foul though.
Min 53 | Papa Diop goes in the book for a challenge on Lucas Vázquez. Champions League match-winner Álvaro Morata is warming up on the touchline.
Min 52 | The crowd are up in arms as Pepe barges into Baptistao feet first in the box. The Brazilian falls straight to the floor clutcihng his foot but the referee says no foul. Having looked at it again it did look like it could have been considered dangerous play...
Min 49 | Marc Roca takes a tumble after Carvajal's flying challenge inside the Espanyol half but play goes on. Roca gets up gingerly but looks fine; the referee trots over to see if everything's OK.
Min 47 | Espanyol are keeping possession well but not really getting anywhere with it at the start of this second half.
Peeeeeep! We're back underway. Can Espanyol claw their way back into this game?
Half Time: Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid
Real Madrid should feel fortunate to go into the break 1-0 up after a lacklustre first half. The game started slowly, with injuries to Piatti and Casmiro forcing both coaches to make changes early on, and Zidane's side never really got going. They looked shaky at the back and lacked creativity but a late individual goal from James has put them in the driving seat (the Colombian has now scored 10 of his last 12 league goals from outside the box). The second half should be a different proposition now that Madrid have the lead.
Min 45+1 | Goooooooooooooll!! James!!!! The Colombian picks up the ball half-way inside the Espanyol half and resists a couple of challenges before firing a low left-footed shot down past Diego López into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Min 45 | We'll have three minutes of first-half injury time.
Min 43 | Benzema goes down in a heap following a hefty challenge from Oscar Duarte. The Espanyol defender goes in the book.
Min 42 | Uyyyy! Chance for Espanyol! Leo Baptistao gets between the centre-backs and gets on the end of Hernán Pérez's cross but his header flies just wide.
Min 39 | Goooooool! But NO! Benzema thought he'd given Real Madrid the lead with a nice header but he's flagged offside after latching onto Marcelo's pinpoint cross from the left. Still 0-0.
Min 38 | Zidane moves back from the edge of the technical area and sits down on the bench. He can't be too pleased with what he's seen so far. No real rhythm from his side, Casemiro off and a shaky start from his centre-backs.
Min 37 | Kroos gets the ball to feet from Asensio on the left flank and works himself into a position to shoot. He gets his shot away but it goes high and wide.
Min 33 | Half an hour in and Real Madrid haven't really got into their groove so far. Modric tries to inject some dynamism into the game and works his way into the Espanyol box with some silky skills but it's cleared for a corner. It's cleared; Vázquez quickly recovers the ball and takes a tumble in the box but the referee is having none of it.
Min 30 | Casilla's magnificent throw reaches Asensio just inside the Espanyol half and he threads the ball into the box but it's cut out by the defence.
Min 27 | Modric is down after a late challenge from Diop but he's up quickly and no card is given. Madrid flight the ball forward to Asensio who tries to get his cross in quickly but it's decisively cleared.
Min 25 | Ramos gets himself in a twist and his backwards header goes straight into the path of Leo Baptistao but he can't make the most of it. Not long after Pérez fires a shot from outside the box but instead of going straight into the top corner it smashes straight into the raised hands of Sergio Ramos. Ramos pulls a Steven Taylor and goes down clutching his face. Naughty boy. He trots off for treatment and Real Madrid regain possession.
Min 21 | Now Marcelo is down after a rugged challenge from Hernán Pérez. Free kick to Real Madrid half-way inside the Espanyol box but it's played backwards and nothing comes from it. Applause sounds out around the ground as Espanyol fans remember Dani Jarque, the club captain who died back in 2009 aged just 26.
Min 20 | Casemiro's on the ground now and he keeps looking at the bench. Kroos looks like the logical replacement. Yes, the German whips his top off and trots on without a warm up. Not the start either side were hoping for. Two enforced subs within the first 20 minutes!
Min 16 | The Brazilian is still limping but Zidane doesn't have anyone warming up on the touchline. Can't see him playing on for too long.
Min 13 | Casemiro goes down after being inadvertently kicked in the ankle and he's forced off for treatment. He quickly comes back on but he's limping.
Min 11 | Chance for Espanyol! Pepe fails to deal with a cross in from the left and the ball falls to Baptistao but Casilla is quick off his line and makes an excellent save with his feet. The home side probably won't have many chances like that tonight!
Min 9 | The visitors have slowed things down and are playing the ball around calmly in midfield. Piatti can't continue and Espanyol are forced to make the first change of the game. Álvaro Vázquez comes on his place.
Min 7 | Real Madrid finally get the corner in and Sergio Ramos rises high above the Espanyol defence to head towards goal but it trickles wide to the right. Nice chance.
Min 5 | Uyyyy! Lucas Vázquez works his way into the box from the right flank and gets his shot away but it takes a deflection and flies across the face of goal for a corner. Just as Real Madrid prepare to flight in the corner the referee blows his whistle. Piatti is down in the Madrid half and he needs medical attention.
Min 3 | Sergio Ramos makes a late challenge on Baptistao and rightfully goes in the book. What were the chances on Ramos picking up the first booking of the game? Quite high, probably.
Min 2 | Espanyol work their way forward and the ball is threaded through to Leo Baptistao but Kiko Casilla is quick off his line to collect.
Peeeeeeeep! We're off in Cornellà, Real Madrid kicking from right to left dressed all in purple. Espanyol in their traditional blue and white stripes.
Diego López; Javi López, Óscar Duarte, David López, Víctor Sánchez; Marc Roca, Diop; Hernán Pérez, Piatti; Gerard Moreno and Baptistao.
Keeping the bench toasty: Roberto, Demichelis, Duarte, J.A. Reyes, Caicedo, Vázquez, D. Reyes
Coach: Quique S. Flores
Real Madrid XI
Casilla, Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Benzema, James, Marcelo, Casemiro, Lucas Vázquez, Modric and Asensio.
On the bench are: Yañez, Varane, Kroos, Kovacic, Morata, Isco and Danilo.
The coach is of course Mr Zinedine Zidane.
19:08 | Remember Diego López is meeting his former side tonight too, the current Espanyol keeper was at Real Madrid from 2000 to 2007, before making a name for himself at Villarreal and Sevilla. He came back to Real Madrid in 2013, taking over from Casillas in one of the more controversial moments of Mou's spell in charge. López left Madrid for Milan in the summer of 2014 and moved on loan to Espanyol this summer after falling behind Donnarumma in the pecking order at Milan.
19:03 | Good news for Real Madrid, their B team, Real Madrid Castilla have just beaten SD Leioa 1-0 at the Di Stéfano stadium in the Spanish capital. A certain Enzo Zidane scored a penalty with the last kick of the game.
17:34 | Weather forecast for Espanyol - Real Madrid: it's expected to be a perfect 19 degrees at kick-off with clear skies above the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat. Sunset is at 7:55pm in Barcelona today, so it's floodlights all the way.
16:40 | Find out what Espanyol coach Quique Sanchez Flores had to say ahead of tonight's game
16:20 | Is this the night where we see the return of James Rodriguez to a starting XI?
16:00 | A special night ahead for keeper Kike Casilla as he returns to Espanyol
15:27 | Zidane looks to youth. Read the preview of tonight's Espanyol-Real Madrid game.
Espanyol welcome Real Madrid to their Cornella El Prat ground this evening as Quique Sanchez Flores' side search for their first win of the new campaign. Zidane will be without the BBC, but buoyed on by the dramatic win on Wednesday night as his side snatched a late win against Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League. The French coach also stands to equal the record of 16 straight LaLiga wins, a record currently held by Guardiola during his tenure at FC Barcelona.
It's been far from an ideal start for the new Espanyol project headed by Quique Sánchez Flores and the former Watford coach has yet to record a win with the Barcelona based side. His team lie in the lower reaches of the table following a defeat to Sevilla and two drawn games against Málaga and Real Sociedad. The coach must do without key players such as Javi Fuego, Salva Sevilla and José Manuel Jurado but can call upon the likes of José Antonio Reyes, Felipe Caicedo and defender Martin Demichelis to bolster his side. Despite the negative start for the "budgies" they have proved to be one of the most effective league sides scoring on the seven times out of ten when they have had a shot on target.
Currently tied with Barça at the summit of the league table, Madrid travel to the Catalan capital without key strikers: Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. The Welsh star has yet to recover from the knock he sustained in the Champions League game and Cristiano is suffering with flu. Zidane did confirm that he intends to bring in James Rodriguez from the wilderness and the Colombian is set to start his first game for 133 days. The French coach will also be hoping to equal the record of straight wins in LaLiga with a win at the RCDE Stadium being 16 wins on the bounce for Real Madrid. "We face a good side and realize that it will be far from easy. We've rested after Wednesday and are ready", cited the French coach in his pre match address to the media.
Possible starting line-up's for Espanyol vs Real Madrid
Possible Espanyol XI: Diego López; Javi López, Diego Reyes, Óscar Duarte, Víctor Sánchez; David López, Marc Roca; Hernán Pérez, Piatti; Gerard and Leo Baptistao.
Coach: Quique Sánchez Flores.
Possible Real Madrid XI: Casilla; Danilo, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo; Casemiro o Kovacic; Kroos, James; Lucas Vázquez, Asensio; Morata or Benzema.
Coach: Zinedine Zidane.