Highlights & observations from Real Madrid’s 1-0 win to Espanyol

RCD Espanyol vs Real Madrid, La Liga 2019/20 (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
RCD Espanyol vs Real Madrid, La Liga 2019/20 (Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

The ball is in Madrid’s court again!

Real Madrid huffed and puffed, but eked out a slender yet vital 1-0 victory over bottom side Espanyol at the RCDE stadium.

The victory takes them two points clear of Barcelona at the top, who dropped points at Celta Vigo on the previous day.

The Periquitos were resilient and well organised all night, not letting the mighty visitors create many chances, but the latter’s quality eventually showed.

Karim Benzema produced a majestic backheel pass for Casemiro inside the area, and the Brazilian darted forward to arrow a shot into the bottom corner.

The key talking points and observations from the match:

Benzema truly is Real Madrid’s ‘MVP’

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Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left, the Frenchman has stepped out of the shadows to take the talismanic mantle of the side. He was the only bright spot for Los Blancos in the catastrophic 2018/19 season, and now continues to play an instrumental role in their title charge.

It was Benzema’s moment of magic last night that created Casemiro’s winner. With his backs against the goal, he pulled off an amazing tacon de dios  – a backheel pass, right through the legs of his marker for Casemiro to cut inside and do the rest. Pure class, that.

Lei was set up to hit Madrid on the break

Chinese star Wu Lei has been one of the few bright sparks in this damp Espanyol side this season, and was certainly the single biggest threat coming from the hosts last night too. The main objective of the Periquitos appeared to be somehow get the ball to Lei, who then sped down on the break.

He was a real menace to Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, and especially due to the latter’s penchant to drive forward, Lei also had space to run in behind and create chances. The 28-year old was especially electric during the first half hour or so. It was a mistake to take him off at the 57th minute as the hosts appeared considerably blunt thereafter.

Hazard was subject to roughhousing by Espanyol

The resurgent Eden Hazard was rather quiet on the night. He couldn’t really pull the strings up front, and much of that was down to some brash and reckless challenges on him by Espanyol players. Almost every time the Belgian came into possession, there was someone in the blue shirt who would come flying at him.

He got his heels clipped by Victor Gomez early on before Marc Roca hacked him down to concede another free-kick, though Bernardo Espinosa almost sent him back to the treatment table by brushing his boots up his knees. Hazard’s misplaces passes and inability to make good crosses would suggest he was poor on the night anyways, but the home side’s horseplay made matters worse for him.

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Real Madrid next play Getafe at home, whereas Espanyol travel to Basque Country to play Real Sociedad. However, all eyes will be in Barcelona as the Catalans host Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.