A moment of magic from Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Espanyol that moved them two points clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.
Zinedine Zidane’s side came into this match having watched Barca drop points in a 2-2 draw away to Celta Vigo on Saturday and made the most of the opportunity, taking a firm grip of the Spanish title race.
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The breakthrough at the RCDE Stadium came on the stroke of half-time, with Benzema back-heeling a pass through the legs of an opposition defender to set up Casemiro for a close-range finish into an empty net.
That proved to be the decisive moment of the match as Real Madrid saw out a win that gives them the advantage over defending champions Barcelona at the top of LaLiga, with six games left to play of the 2019/20 season.

TALKING POINT - Is fatigue starting to affect Real Madrid?

In the end, Real Madrid got the job done, claiming the three points required to take top spot, but this was far from a vintage performance from Los Blancos. In fact, it was a weary performance. It was somewhat of a surprise Zidane decided to use just two of his five possible substitutions considering it seemed many of his team were suffering from fatigue for periods of the second half. Could this be a factor over the final few weeks of the season?

MAN OF THE MATCH - Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

As has been the case so many times this season, Benzema proved to be the difference-maker for Real Madrid, producing an exceptional back-heel assist for Casemiro’s winner. The French striker was the best player on the pitch, with the majority of the away side’s attacking play flowing through him. While others around him tired, Benzema continued to be a factor until the final whistle.

PLAYER RATINGS

Espanyol - Lopez 6, Gomez 5, Bernardo 6, Cabrera 5, Didac 5, Embarba 5, Lopez 7, Roca 6, Darder 5, Wu Lei 7, De Tomas 6. Subs - Calleri 5, Lozano 4, Pedrosa 4, Ribaudo 5, Melendo 5.
Real Madrid - Courtois 6, Carvajal 5, Varane 6, Ramos 6, Marcelo 6, Casemiro 8, Valverde 5, Kroos 6, Isco 7, Hazard 5, Benzema 8. Subs - Vinicius 6, Rodrygo 5.

KEY MOMENTS

3’ What a chance! That should have been an early opener for Espanyol! Wu Lei got in behind Ramos very easily, he picked out Darder with a cross, but his shot was blocked well by Carvajal!
6’ From his own half! Wow! That would have been one of the goals of the season! Casemiro spotted Lopez off his line from inside his own half, but the Espanyol keeper scrambles back to make the save.
35’ BENZEMA... tipped over! That's better from Real Madrid. That's the closest they have come with Kroos feeding Benzema inside the box, but his shot is tipped over by Lopez! Good stop from the keeper!
44’ SCRAMBLE IN THE BOX! Lopez saves from Casemiro at the back post, the ball bounces around and falls at the feet of Hazard, but his shot is pushed over by the goalkeeper! Was there a foul from Lopez in there? VAR says no.
45’ GOAL! Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid: A moment of magic from Benzema sees the deadlock broken right at the end of the first half! Benzema runs on to a knock on and then performs an exceptional backheel through the legs of the defender and Casemiro continues his run to finish from close range!

KEY STATS

Real Madrid have now won six consecutive LaLiga games for the first time in over three years.
Karim Benzema has now contributed 117 assists for Real Madrid in all competitions.
No team has recorded more wins against a single opponent in LaLiga history than Real Madrid against Espanyol (104).
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18/06/2021 AT 09:08