Real Madrid 3 - 1 Espanyol (Vinicius, Militao, Asensio; Joselu). Here’s our quick reaction at the final whistle. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game quotes, post-game podcast, stats breakdown, and a ton more.
It took Real Madrid a while to get going in an early kick-off at the Bernabeu. The combination of a rare matinee plus a looming Champions League knockout clash provided the recipe for an all-too-familiar slow start.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men looked half asleep as Espanyol pressed aggressively right from the kick-off and looked to play balls behind the defensive line. Diego Martinez’s side opened the scoring in the 8th minute, taking advantage of two defensive lapses: 1) Aurelien Tchouameni losing the ball in midfield; and 2) Eduardo Camavinga misreading the diagonal ball in-behind him. By the time the ball flashed across the face of goal to Joselu, Eder Militao wasn’t in position to recover in time:
Joselu gives Espanyol the lead over Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/6KFGefPEfY— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 11, 2023
To Real Madrid’s credit — as frustrating it is for fans to see the team constantly waiting to concede a goal to start playing football — the response to Joselu’s goal was great. Vinicius Jr, who was threatening all game, provided a moment of magic in the 22nd minute to equalize:
Vini Jr. turned it on for the equaliser pic.twitter.com/zALBwCGG4X— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 11, 2023
Real Madrid used Vinicius’s goal as momentum to fuel an uptick in energy and control. After the Brazilian scored, Ancelotti’s men counter-pressed efficiently and pinned Espanyol deeper and deeper. By the time they scored the go-ahead goal in the 39th minute, they had tacked Espanyol into the 18-yard box. Some fluid movement resulted in Aurelien Tchouameni finding himself in the left half-space, where he pinged a gorgeous outside-of-the-boot cross to Eder Militao at the far post:
Real Madrid looked comfortable, for the most part, for the remainder of the game. Espanyol threatened little, apart from a short spell in the last 15 minutes where they brought their line higher and tried to get on the end of some set pieces. Real Madrid’s transition defense held up, as it did when they had to sit back.
As Espanyol looked for a goal, it left them vulnerable in transition, and the game was sealed in the 93rd minute, when substitute Marco Asensio was set up brilliantly by an unstoppable Nacho:
¡Asensio LIQUIDA el partido! pic.twitter.com/YLQu5A26rx— ESPN Deportes (@ESPNDeportes) March 11, 2023
As always, this is just the bare bones of today’s game. We’re going to break it down in much more detail in the coming hours, both in written and podcast form.