Real Madrid starting XI: Navas, Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Isco, Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema.
Espanyol starting XI: Pau López; Arbilla, Álvaro, Ciani, Duarte; Víctor Sánchez, Javi López; V. Álvarez, Salva Sevilla; Gerard, Caicedo
In a day meant to honor legendary Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo, it was Los Blancos that stole the show with an offensive exhibition versus a quite frankly atrocious Espanyol defense. From the get-go, it was clear who was going to pick up the three points and soon enough it was never in doubt.
Things started off even enough with Espanyol enjoying a decent bit of possession, but out of nowhere a magisteeeeeerial Modric pass from near midfield dropped over the Espanyol CBs with a hungry Ronaldo ready to pounce, which he did with aplomb. 1-0 Madrid in the 7th. Just 10 minutes later saw Bale make an excellent run into the box only to be brought down with the resulting penalty being put away by Ronaldo. 2-0 Madrid with the front three playing some gorgeous off-the-ball football.
Three minutes later it was the Welshman again, on the left this time, who lofted a ball into the box for Ronaldo to find and put away. 3-0. Not to be selfish, Ronaldo found his favorite striker Benzema at the end of a gorgeous counterattack in the 28th minute which made it 4-0 in favor of the visitors. By this point, Espanyol's fullbacks were left to fend for themselves as their midfield and CBs were clearly giving up. Madrid was conceding a fair bit of possession to the home side and actually did have to defend as Navas was called into action more than once, but no dangerous chances were carved by Sergio Gonzalez's men on what was supposed to be their special day. At the half, it was 4-0 Madrid and the only question was who was going to be rested for the next 45.
The second half was more or less a glorified scrimmage as neither side seemed too eager to give it their all and risk injury or suspension. Espanyol was afforded space and possession with Caicedo remaining a physical thorn in Madrid's side, but nothing really came of it. There was one instance of Espanyol finding themselves with the ball right in front of a half open net following a Navas save but, unfortunately for the home fans, they couldn't celebrate a consolation goal.
And speaking of goals, Ronaldo added his fourth in the 62nd and his fifth of the day in the 81st minute as Bale fed Vazquez who deftly shimmied his marker out of his boots before feeding the star of the day. Vazquez also had a chance to net one for himself minutes later following another sterling move but his shot was just wide and the match ended 6-0. Still, a nice substitute cameo to showcase his technical skills.
Overall, it's hard to write much about this game as Espanyol's gameplan was plain bad and they clearly gave up after the first couple of goals. Honestly, Madrid could've put a couple more past them were it not for the post and just barely missing on a couple chances. Ronaldo was on point, Bale was all over the place causing havoc and the offense looked sharp and pacey when moving forward. However, little things such as wonky passing in the back third and Casemiro's rust need to be corrected. That being said, no one played poorly while many played well.
Hooray for good football! Go enjoy your Saturdays!
Three things we learned:
1. Ronaldo's still got it. Some talk in the past few weeks of a slump had entered the Madrid sphere with fans and critics alike wondering if Ronaldo's numbers will take a dip this season. Credit it to his drive or a poor Espanyol defense, but the #7 quieted that talk today with a masterclass in finishing. Five goals on seven shots with an assist to boot, not a bad way to get on track. Basically, Ronaldo did this.
2. The offense is varied, and this is very encouraging. This goal by Benzema is reminiscent of 2011's counterattacks and it all started with an excellent Bale throughball. Ronaldo's fourth was almost a carbon copy. However, Madrid also looked threatening in possession and with patient build-up play. Last year the offense stagnated late and relied too heavily on crosses, this year it seems to have more variety. Will this last remains to be seen, but early signs are highly promising.
3. The defense is looking... better. Some nervy moments aside, the back four held up their end of the bargain versus a decent pairing of Caicedo and Moreno. The former did manage to bully Ramos off the ball early on, but Espanyol's chances were few and far in between. Madrid could stand to improve its passing at the back and limit individual brain farts like we saw with Ramos early but it'll do for today. A better opponent will provide more of a test but there's no way anyone can complain about three clean sheets to open the season.
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