Real Madrid continued their La Liga title pursuit with a jittery 1-0 win at home to mid-table Espanyol.
Dictating proceedings from the off, Real secured the victory thanks to Marco Asensio's strike but were not as convincing as in recent weeks.
Espanyol were punished for their inaccuracies in front of goal as Real Madrid broke the deadlock just before half time. A fluffed Luka Modric shot landed at the feet of Asensio and the young Spaniard smashed across Diego Lopez. After a quick VAR check for offside, the game's only goal was awarded by referee Mateu Lahoz.
Madrid weren't against testing their luck however, as Sergio Ramos was caught dawdling by Borja Iglesias. Getting away a smart chip shot, the forward had Courtois beaten all ends up. Unfortunately for him, his execution was ever so slightly misjudged, and the ball bounced off the crossbar to safety.
Borja Iglesias hit bar and then twice in a row a decent pass would have put him one on one. All in 4 minutes. Still 1-0 to RM.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) September 22, 2018
With Espanyol offering little as the game came to a climax, Real Madrid's experience and fitness told. While it could be looked at as a fairly comfortable night for Los Blancos, fans would no doubt have had their hearts racing at certain moments throughout this encounter.
Key Talking Point
As Sergio Ramos wasn't bothered with defending today, space was there to be run at by the away side. Many an opportunity was had, but the Catalans couldn't quite find a way to hit the net.
Both Piatti and Vila should have done better with their chances early on, and Iglesias was inches away from tying the scores up at 1-1. It was an unnecessarily rickety ending for Los Blancos, with the onlooking Bernabeu crowd evidently nervous as the game dragged on.
Substitutes: Mariano (5), Vazquez (6), Llorente (6)
STAR MAN - Marco Asensio
The starlet was most definitely Real Madrid's most dangerous attacking man, and his goal was a just reward. Gifted with a fantastic ability to dribble the ball out of perilous situations, Asensio showed touches of Eden Hazard on Saturday night.
Can’t believe people tried to say Asensio was overrated man he’s generational.— - (@afccentro) September 22, 2018
His strike made the difference between the two teams, and if not for him, the result would've been a very disheartening one for Los Blancos. Leaned on in his match, the 22-year-old showed impressive leadership in many a troublesome circumstance.
Worst Player - Karim Benzema
Replaced by Mariano on the hour mark, the streaky Benzema had a frustrating day at the office. On form up until Saturday, the Frenchman saw very little of the ball tonight.
When he did, his touch deceived him. The number nine is likely to play a bigger role this season than he did in the previous campaign, and will be looked upon to contribute more goals now Cristiano Ronaldo has left the building.
Starting XI (4-5-1): D.Lopez (6); J.Lopez (6), Hermoso (7), Naldo (6), Didac (6); Perez (5), Roca (6), Granero (5), Darder (5), Piatti (5); Iglesias (7*).
Substitutes: Baptistao (6), Sanchez (7), Garcia (5).
STAR MAN - Sergio Iglesias
While failing to score with his only real chance, Iglesias was unafraid to continually track down both Ramos and Varane. His pressure made life difficult for the home side, and allowed Espanyol's midfield to operate.
Joined up top by Leo Baptistao in the second half, Real Madrid's midfield dropped deeper as Casemiro started to battle more frequently than had been necessary in the first half. Breaking the line a few times, the striker will be irked that he was not found more often.
Worst Player - Pablo Piatti
Missing a glorious chance to put Espanyol in the lead, the Argentine screwed his shot wide of the post without any pressure. Most would have expected the winger to break the net from his angle, so not even forcing Courtois into a save was unforgivable.
Piatti could have buried Madrid. But Espanyol feel they can waste 20 clear cut chances and still won't lose at Madrid.— Mutumba Bobnificent (@MBobnificent) September 22, 2018
love these guys attitude.
Substituted after 45 minutes, his influence on the game dwindled after his missed chance. Possibly losing confidence after wasting such an opportunity, Rubi was wise to give him the hook.
By no means vintage Real Madrid, Los Blancos didn't quite create with their usual power. While it turned out to be a positive result in the end, Espanyol's lack of accuracy in front of net made life far easier than it could've been at the Bernabeu.
Lopetegui can still say his rotation policy worked however, as three points were gained without having to use Toni Kroos, Gareth Bale or Marcelo. With Sevilla in midweek and El Derbi Madrileno next Saturday, it's fair to say this job was well executed.
As for the away side, it's doubtful they came to Spain's capital expecting to take anything back to Catalonia. At home to plucky Eibar on Tuesday, focus will now quickly shift to garnering a solid result in that one.