Real Madrid - Espanyol match report: LaLiga 2018/19
Follow our live coverage of the LaLiga matchday five clash between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real Madrid recorded their 101st victory against Espanyol this evening, with one lone goal from Marco Asensio enough to see the hosts past their opponents.
Los Blancos looked sharp and totally controlled the first half, enjoying around 70 percent of the ball. But despite all that possession, they only had created one significant chance by the half-hour mark. With Madrid pressing high, there was always a risk of being caught on the break. And that is what happened on two occasions for Espanyol, who were unlucky not to score completely against the run of play.
Madrid finally translated their pressure into a goal in the 41st minute. Modric’s deflected shot found the feet of Asensio in the leftside of the penalty area, and the Spaniard comfortably slotted the ball past Lopez into the far right corner. The ref did call for VAR, as it looked like Asensio may have been offside. But the replays showed he was not and the goal stood.
The second half was a similar story. Madrid had plenty of possession but created several more chances than the first half – the best of which came through Ramos in the 73rd minute. Isco’s beautifully dinked cross found Ramos bursting into the box, and the defender struck a powerful header which prompted an excellent save from the Espanyol keeper.
Espanyol had a better second half and had more opportunities, most of which, like the first half, came from counter attacking and catching the hosts on the break. Rubi’s side came very close to equalising in the 65th minute, when Borja Iglesias capitalised on an error by Ramos as he tried to play it out of defence. After his interception, the Espanyol striker managed to fend off Ramos, who was chasing back after losing the ball, and struck an almost-perfect chip shot from the edge of the box. Courtois was no man’s land as the ball sailed over him and rattled the crossbar, much to the relief of the Madrid captain, whose error nearly cost his side a goal. Espanyol had couple of more chances on the break after that, but failed to make them count, and Madrid hung on to win the game 1-0.
Lopetegui will be generally satisfied with his team’s performance, particularly that of Odriozola, who had a great debut and looked dangerous down the right flank. Isco, Asensio and Modric were the other standout players in a game in which Madrid controlled easily and could have scored more. But one goal was enough for them to take the three points, which puts Los Blancos one point ahead of Barcelona. Although Messi and Co have a game in hand to be played at home against Girona tomorrow, after which they will likely be back on top of the LaLiga table.
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Real Madrid host the other Barcelona rival, Espanyol, at the Santiago Bernabeu this evening, the first game of five in the space of 14 days for Julen Lopetegui’s men.
After an impressive 3-0 victory against Roma midweek in the Champions League, Los Blancos will be hotly favoured to win this one. So far Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence has not been felt by a Madrid side that have won three and drawn one so far in LaLiga, with Bale and Benzema comfortably replacing the Portuguese’s goals.
The two strikers have both scored four each and will be tipped to add to their tally this evening. Although it is possible that one of them will not start, as Lopetegui could rotate his team for this fixture, which is sandwiched between the aforementioned Roma game and a tougher LaLiga match away at Sevilla on Wednesday.
Dani Carvajal is the only injury worry for Lopetegui, who could hand LaLiga debuts to full-back Alvaro Odriozola, who had been side-lined through injury, and 18-year-old Vinicius. The young Brazilian has so far plied his trade this season with Real Madrid Castilla in Second Division B and this is the first time Lopetegui has called him up to the squad. No doubt the home crowd will be eager to see the exciting new talent play some part against Espanyol tonight, a match the Basque coach is not taking lightly.
“It’s going to be demanding. They are a much improved team and they have also had all week to prepare for the game,” said Lopetegui. “They will force us to make a big effort. It is the most demanding game so far at the Bernabeu.”
Espanyol have had a decent start to the season by their standards, picking up seven points from their first four games. They travel to Madrid having won their last game against Levante 1-0 last weekend, with the single goal coming from Sergio García.
If Rubi’s side can somehow achieve an unlikely victory at the Bernabeu, they would be the first Espanyol side to do so in 22 years. Espanyol, however, did win the last fixture between these two back in February at the RCDE Stadium.
Key to an Espanyol success will be playmaker and former Real Madrid player Esteban Granero. Rubi will be without Oscar Duarte, who is absent with a knee injury, and winger Javi Puado, who is recovering from ligament damage. Espanyol seem an improved outfit so far this season but Real Madrid will offer a stern test to see just how improved they really are.
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