Real Madrid go through the motions and beat Espanyol 2-0 at the Bernabeu in a Saturday matinee, where, they were admittedly slow coming out of the gates after a Champions League hangover. Here are a few quick notes:
Espanyol’s (surprisingly) good defensive scheme
Espanyol have been dire defensively all season. Of the top-10 teams in La Liga, they are the only team without a positive goal differential, and they’ve consistently been carved open over the course of the season. Only recently they’ve captured some form, which gave them the confidence to ward off Real Madrid’s attack.
Quique Sanchez Flores’ men didn’t press high, which allowed them stopgaps across the horizontal plane. In turn, Zidane’s men had a lion’s share of possession (hovering around the 70% mark throughout the game), without many clear-cut chances to note. The ball recycled often without much vertical penetration or movement down the central channels, and Espanyol seemed content sacrificing offensive creativity in exchange for containing seepage from Real Madrid’s attack.
The game-breaker eventually came from the same spot it came from against Napoli — from just outside the top-corner of the 18-yard box. Isco’s cross swung in from a position that’s so difficult to fend-off from if you’re a defender, and Morata’s positioning was perfect to give Real Madrid the 1-0 lead. It was Isco’s first assist of the night -- the 2nd would come later in the 2nd half, when Bale’s blitzing run created an outlet for Isco’s through-ball.
Espanyol were shut-down
In a game where they surrendered possession, and their opportunities were few and far in between, it was hard to see where Espanyol’s goals would come from. They had nothing going forward, and anytime they did, they were denied before Kiko Casilla could even be tested. Of particular note, Real Madrid did a tremendous job rebuffing Espanyol’s attacks through the flanks. The Lucas V / Carvajal; and Isco / Nacho tandems worked great together, often retaining possession high-up the pitch. Other times it was Varane and Pepe covering to snuff out the attacks.
- Another great (yet goalless) match from Cristiano Ronaldo. He looks agile and unselfish.
me watching ronaldo in the past 2 games pic.twitter.com/A1sokFUWEd— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) February 18, 2017
- The distribution rates from the entire team (1-to-11) was bonkers today. The team out-passed Espanyol 571-227; and 194-44 in the attacking third.
- Kovacic had his cheek-bone smashed in an aerial duel, bled profusely, and then kept playing. I will never be half the man he is.
- I would gladly donate all my limbs, organs, and tissue to Gareth Bale if it meant he’d never get injured again.
Stay tuned for match review, detailed breakdowns of the match, and post-game pod.