The 0-1 advantage obtained last week at Cornellà-El Prat seemed enough to face today's second leg with confidence, and the game's first minutes served to confirm this sensation. Although our coach chose some non-habitual players to form the lineup, such as Nacho, Coentrao, Jesé or Isco, the team's performance was not reduced and our men played a really solid match tonight.
Real Madrid's control of the game was patent since the very first minute. Having Illarra in the midfield close to Alonso and Isco in a fake-9 role, our chances to keep the ball possession clearly improved, and we took this opportunity, as the 86% pass success and the 65% possession can manifest. Our midfielders were always coordinated in such a way that a pass line was always open between them, the offensive presence of our fullbacks was of great help to find some relief, and Isco's falling to the hole helped to create a superiority in central areas. Besides, our work to recover the ball after losing it was specially intense today, and so our biggest weakness in the last games was covered.
In this context, the goal had to arrive sooner or later, and we only needed to wait until the seventh minute for it. An astonishing long ball crossed by Alonso found Jesé, who was tracing a diagonal from the right wing towards the goal. He left his defender back with great speed and a precise shot served him to score. This is Jesé's sixth goal, good numbers for a player in his first season with the team.
We could basically say the match ended there, because it never seemed that Espanyol would be able to get back at us. We still had chances to score in the first half, but Ronaldo's aim was not the best today, while Casilla played a third-in-a-row extraordinary match against us, with some very remarkable interventions. In the last five minutes before the break, our rivals linked three or four consecutive approaches to our goal, coming from corner or free kicks, but our defenders were firm enough to reject them.
The second half was not that interesting. Jhon Córdoba entered to substitute Torje, the left winger, in order to attack the presumed weakness at Nacho's side, but he did not really have a chance to make a confrontation there. Our players reduced the rhythm to minimize the risks and still had the best goal opportunities in the second half. Morata and Casemiro had a chance to play some minutes, but they did not have enough time to prove anything but their courage.
This victory qualifies us to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey, where we will face either Atlético de Madrid or Athletic de Bilbao next week. Let us hope February will be as good as January, a month in which we won all of our games and did not conceed any goal.