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Benzema's moment of brilliance sends Real Madrid back top

Pin Karim Benzema was the decisive factor in Real Madrid's 0-1 win at Espanyol. EFE
Karim Benzema was the decisive factor in Real Madrid's 0-1 win at Espanyol. EFE

Benzema's moment of brilliance sends Real Madrid back top

Paul Singh by Paul Singh @besoccer_com - 0 7,445

Casemiro's goal just before half-time after a sensational backheel by Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a comfortable 0-1 victory over Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium in La Liga. Espanyol were unable to respond in the second half and Real Madrid extend their lead at the top to two points.

Real Madrid went back top of La Liga after beating basement boys Espanyol 0-1 at the RCDE Stadium. Real Madrid were not outstanding, but they were still far too strong for 'Los Pericos'. The game was decided by a Casemiro goal in the 45th minute after Sergio Ramos headed to Karim Benzema and the Frenchman set up Casemiro with a lovely backheel to nutmeg the defender. Casemiro made no mistake and the home side had nothing bar a few half chances in the second half. 

Espanyol started the game well and Wu Lei made a good run down the near side in the third minute before sending in a cross for Sergi Darder who saw his shot blocked. Five minutes later, Casemiro saw goalkeeper Diego Lopez off his line and nearly chipped him from his own half while Sergio Ramos headed over Kroos' free-kick. Casemiro also had a good opportunity, but Espanyol were still threatening at the other end with good runs. 

Zidane's men nearly fell behind with 20 minutes on the clock when Marc Roca's free-kick was flicked on by an Espanyol head and Thibaut Courtois had to make a fine save. The Catalans then had another bright move a few minutes later through Embarba and Wu Lei, but the latter missed the target and was offside. After that, it was all Real Madrid. 

Benzema forced Diego Lopez into a superb diving save nine minutes before the break when he cut inside the box and shot. Then, Espanyol got lucky after pinball following Isco's cross. Casemiro and Benzema could not turn the ball home on that occasion, but a minute later, they combined for the only goal. Marcelo sent a cross field pass to Ramos who headed for Benzema, he backheeled to Casemiro who made no mistake from close range. It was Casemiro's goal, but Benzema made it. 

In the second half, Real Madrid were content to keep it 0-1 while Espanyol were not capable of scoring so that led to a very poor second 45. Benzema volleyed an Isco cross from a tight angle which the goalie dealt with easily while Espanyol's efforts were not much better

Wu Lei had a half chance which was meat and drink for Courtois while Raul De Tomas from a free-kick and David Lopez also hit the target. However, a world class keeper of Courtois' calibre was untroubled by those half chances. Espanyol's season was summed up in the last 15 minutes when they had no opportunities in the final quarter of an hour, very concerning for a team bottom of the table. When Calleri managed to force a corner, time was up and there was no time to take it. 

Real Madrid fully deserved the three points and they took full advantage of Barca's draw at Celta Vigo on Saturday. They are now two points clear of Barcelona (effectively three with the superior head to head record) while Espanyol are 10 points off safety with 18 left to play for. Not even a new caretaker manager in Rufete managed to change things for them this evening. They were well beaten and things are looking very gloomy for Barcelona's second club.

Paul Singh

Paul Singh

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