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Match Report (La Liga) Real Madrid 2 - 0 Espanyol

Zidane’s men deservedly pick up three points.

Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It was a fun affair at the Santiago Bernabeu as Real Madrid dominated Espanyol in every aspect of the game. Real Madrid managed 2 goals in 12 attempts. A feat that could surely have been greater. That being said, Real Madrid got the important 3 points and will be leaders of La Liga closing this weekend, come what may.

88 days and 13 minutes it took for the always incredible Gareth Bale to find the back of the net. This match was mostly anticipated for the Welshman’s return on the pitch doing what he does best. Bale did not disappoint as he won the ball for Real Madrid on two occasions and also scored a terrific goal to cap off his performance.

First Half

The game got underway with a slow start, with both sides enjoying fair bits of possession. Even with plenty of possession, Real Madrid were unable to leave a mark in the game until the 13th minute, when Pepe’s header from Kroos’ corner was wide of the goal.

Zidane’s men saw plenty of the ball, but failed time and time again to penetrate through Espanyol’s compact defense. Another opportunity arose when Isco danced into the Espanyol box before delivering towards Morata, but the ball bounced behind.

It was around the 26th minute mark when 22-year-old Mateo Kovacic felt the full force of Pape Diop's head, suffering a nasty cut. The Croatian was fixed up and was ready to continue.

Cristiano Ronaldo got the whole Bernabeu off their seats when his brutal nutmeg left David Lopez for dead.

Cristiano Ronaldo rolling back the years.

The half-hour mark saw the not-so selfish Ronaldo try to square in for a tight angle, but Duarte was superb in sliding and nicking the ball away from Morata who was literally 1 yard away from goal.

Ronaldo scored from the resulting corner only to be ruled offside. Real Madrid would not be denied for long as Morata headed in for Madrid’s opener following tremendous work from Isco.

Morata draws first blood.

Real Madrid have a pattern of napping during the half-hour mark of the first half. However; with Nacho, Isco, Vazquez, Ronaldo and Morata looking for blood, this match had no such pattern.

The first-half came folded with Real Madrid leading by 1 goal. Madrid should have been ahead with more goals, no thanks to Espanyol’s compact defense and former Real Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez who even after all these years happens to be one of the finest goal keepers of La Liga.

Second Half

Zidane’s men, who had dominated the first half with 66% possession, could only score 1 goal. In the second-half, Ronaldo’s effort from the free-kick hit the wall. Kroos let one fly from distance, but that was always heading over the top.

Kiko Casilla, who was a spectator throughout the first-half, had one attempt on his goal, in which he did well to deny the visitors.

With Real Madrid winning 13 corners, they could have had a better scoreline had they managed to score even a fraction of them.

Morata did well to workout a superb cross from the left, only for Ronaldo to jump too early and head the ball over as he came down. That should have been a goal and Ronaldo’s expression said it all.

And finally the moment everyone had been waiting for, Gareth Bale was seen warming up on the sidelines, and was introduced in the game replacing Morata. With Morata gone, Ronaldo had gone to the middle and Bale to the left.

Gareth Bale would go on to have a stellar evening, and on his first touch of the game, won the ball in Real Madrid’s defensive half. Bale gave the home fans just what they desired, after he picked up Isco's intelligent pass into space on the left, racing towards his former teammate Diego Lopez and pulling the trigger, as Espanyol's Hernan Perez’s last ditch challenge couldn't really bother Bale.

Final Impressions:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo has been in excellent form lately and today was no different. He was unlucky to not have scored against Napoli in the Champions League and today as well. Ronaldo will be disappointed in himself to have not done better to head in the ball after being brilliantly set up by Morata. Barring that, Ronaldo was very involved today, contributing offensively by creating chances for his teammates. Ronaldo was unlucky to have been denied a penalty after being pulled down in the box when he looked certain to make it 3-0.
  2. Isco looked dangerous from the start and the Spaniard was once again in top form providing the assists for both the goals that Real Madrid scored.
  3. With Coentrao being almost invisible in this campaign, Real Madrid will need Nacho’s services at the right back during times when providing rest to Marcelo as Real Madrid’s schedule will only get tighter from here.
  4. Captain Pepe’s first start in a long long time was overshadowed by Bale’s return. But the Portuguese’s return will be vital for Real Madrid as a jammed pack schedule awaits the 11 Time European Champion.
  5. Morata did very well with the rare start he was given. The Spaniard was one of the most active players today and his eye for goal sets him apart. Zidane should look to trust Morata with more opportunities.
  6. Bale might have been back today, but let us not forget that it was Vazquez who held the right side steady in his absence. Props to Vazquez for always being so dependable.
  7. Something that I was initially very worried about, was Bale’s pace being affected since he was making his return from a major ankle injury. However, Bale did well enough to relieve me from my fears. He is the same Bale we all love and care about so much.

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