ronaldo 2015  photo

Real Madrid won their away game by 0-6 against Espanyol.

Benitez changed his starting line up because of several reasons.

One was related to James and Danilo. Both got injured on international duty the previous week.

The other was because that is who Benitez really is. He likes to be secretive of his starting line ups so that he can keep his players on the edge even an hour before the game.

Kroos was benched which was a sensible decision considering that Kroos has played about a million minutes of football since the World Cup 2014 last summer without any rest or injury.

Injuries to James and Danilo meant that Isco and Carvajal counted their lucky stars when they were handed a rare starting spot on the team-sheet.

Starting line up was :

  1. Navas
  2. Carvajal
  3. Ramos
  4. Pepe
  5. Marcelo
  6. Casemiro
  7. Modric
  8. Isco
  9. Ronaldo
  10. Benzema
  11. Bale

Goal scorer’s were:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo
  • Benzema

Yes, you read that right. Six goals but only two goal scorers. Benzema was lucky to have one to himself, otherwise it would have been all Ronaldo’s. Ronaldo scored five if you still haven’t guessed.

Ok, bad news now. Barcelona won their game, away from home which is even worse, against Atletico Madrid. On top of that, Lionel Messi also opened his account for La Liga this season and scored a sitter setup by a deft Suarez touch inside the penalty box. Barcelona won 1-2 with Neymar and Messi on the scoresheet for Barcelona.

Anyway, back to fabulous Real Madrid. It never looked like Real Madrid would stop scoring last night and apart from Ronaldo’s(and Bale’s) brilliance, it was Espanyol’s own fault. Their defense was in shambles and the longer the match went on, the more Real Madrid looked like scoring.

Here is a breakdown of individual performances against Espanyol of the Real Madrid team:

Keylor Navas

David De Who?

Navas Didn’t have much to do at all in this match apart from two fantastic saves. He is trying his damn best to avoid getting shipped out of Real Madrid come the end of the season.

First, he made a good low stop from a shot taken outside the penalty area, as usual he couldn’t collect the ball on first try and sort of parried it away before he leaped onto it like a jungle cat and smothered the danger.

Second was a brilliant save from Navas off from a good header from Espanyol’s attacker from inside the six yard box. It was such a pure reflex save that even Casillas would have proud of Navas for just that specific second.

It was simply world class from Keylor Navas and if he keeps this form up, Real Madrid would probably think twice on signing De Gea at the end of this season.

Carvajal

carvajal 2015 real madrid photo

Danilo’s injury (he’d be at home for about a month or so) was Carvajal’s chance to make an impression on Benitez and boy did he grab that chance well or what.

Constantly created havoc down the left right hand side of the pitch and was a constant source of threat for Espanyol defense throughout the match.

His marking ability was particularly solid this evening and part of that was down to the mediocreness of Espanyol’s attack.

Carvajal showed that he didn’t think of himself as a midget when he killed off a dangerous chance for Espanyol by nudging Espanyol’s attacker who was right in front of him, just enough to make him lose flight of the ball and hence the chance to score a goal.

That particular piece of action happened in the middle of Real Madrid’s goal. That shows that Carvajal can improvise when he has to regardless of the fact that he is a bit short to be defending as a centre back.

Real Madrid’s defending from crosses has always been poor but Carvajal looked up for the challenge in that particular instance.

Carvajal’s brilliance going forward was just something to withhold. He linked up well with Casemiro in attack and set him up for a nice lay off short which Casemiro flunked thanks to his poor shooting technique.

Carvajal also setup Benzema for a volley shot inside the penalty area from the left with a nice floating lobbed pass. Benzema couldn’t take a good touch and the ball finally ended up back at the feet of Carvajal who, after much chaos and helter skelter, took a shot of his own and demonstrated why he should always be played as a right back and not as a striker.

The one thing where Carvajal has a clear advantage over Danillo is, one v one dribbling with the ball. Carvajal gets past the first opponent player (usually an attacker who is closing down on him rapidly on the wings) with ease most of the times and that’s not even the whole of it.

Carvajal also made some good sliding tackles which showcased that he is, unlike Marcelo, very accomplished at his defensive duties as well.

His link up play with Benzema was really smooth last night and on top of that, he was really hard to beat in 1v1 situations on the defensive side of things and his anticipation skills were exceptional which allowed him to intercept passes from Espanyol players and hence break up their attacking moves.

Carvajal showed good mobility and light feet which enabled him to defend well against Espanyol’s wingers, if they can be called wingers.

Sergio Ramos

Ramos was pretty solid was well apart from his low clearances which allowed Espanyol to basically block them and launch another attack on Real Madrid’s goal. Ramos has to improve his clearance technique so that his shots go high in the air away from the goal rather than a low strong shot which is blocked by opponent’s players easily.

His clearances might not have been up to the mark but Ramos’s shot blocking skills were working just fine. He blocked a shot which jangled his marbles in the first half. It was a good thing that Real Madrid had Varane on the bench because otherwise the TNT blasted shot with Ramos took to the head looked pretty ugly.

Ramos didn’t go forward much last night but that probably because of Ronaldo’s form and was taken off on the 73rd minute mark by Benitez for Varane.

Benitez is such a master at substitutions and showcases his ability with making good subs in every match.

Pepe

He was a monster at the back last night. He blocked shots time and time again and frustrated an already desperate Espanyol attack.

I don’t know about anyone else but my, when Pepe comes across an attacker it really looks like a train about to hit a brick wall. Espanyol’s attacker just could not cope with Pepe’s aggressiveness on the pitch.

Pepe is the man of steel in Real Madrid’s defense and he truly demonstrated that tonight by constantly closing down Espanyol attackers in the middle and on the wings like a bull charging towards something really red.

Marcelo

Marcelo is always very lively at the back in any given football match and last night was no exception.

He should good ball skills under pressure and was effective in running to one side of the pitch and opening the other with a single touch on the ball. That play got him out of trouble on many occasions.

His tackles were pretty solid too but his positioning was horrible as it is on most days. At one point in the match he made a sliding tackle on the right side of the field (Carvajal was somewhere in Espanyol’s penalty area I surmise).

Apart from that, he should good doggedness inside the penalty area and wrestled the ball away from Espanyol attacker once or twice in the match. But that still does not make up for his poor discipline at the back. He is so easy to fool with a 1-2 pass. Teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich kill you for that simple yet costly mistake. Marcelo needs to learn that.

His interceptions were pretty solid too but as mentioned before, was found in no man’s land on numerous occasions.

Marcelo was lucky that no penalty was awarded to an already beaten up Espanyol when his effort to stop a low cross into the box with a sliding tackle went wrong and the ball hit his hand as he laid on the ground praying.

Marcelo definitely needs to learn about how not to get stretched on the flanks as a left back. He is great going forwards but equally unremarkable when defending.

Modric

Always the engine room in this Real Madrid team. His pass over the top to Ronaldo for the first goal was of the highest quality and his ground passing was pretty accurate as well.

On top of that, Modric provided some good defensive skills to thwart any Espanyol attacks from coming to fruition.

His contributions all over the pitch are priceless and Real Madrid is just not the same team with him. Modric’s Xabi Alonso like ability to release the ball quickly from defense to attack with a single touch on the ball was the key to Real Madrid opening up Espanyol on so many occasions tonight. Modric was rightly taken off at the 55th minute mark and was replaced with countrymen Kovacic who impressed as well.

Ancelotti didn’t know how to handle Modric and ended up overloading him game after game. Benitez, till now, has recognized the fact that Modric needs to be protected if he is to play for Real Madrid for the whole season rather than half.

Kovacic, who came on for Modric was very solid in his defensive duties. Made some good tackles and was generally very combative in the midfield.

A reckless challenge saw him get yellow carded but apart from that, he tried his best to not let Modric’s substitution affect Real Madrid on the pitch.

Isco

His ball control in the midfield was exceptional and quite frankly, that is something Isco has become known for in all part of Europe.

He showed some nice skills to get away from defenders in the middle of the park and was a good link up player between defense and attack fo Real Madrid.

His only weak spot on is his defensive work. Isco, right now, cannot defend. He is took weak and his technique is too bad and awkward but the good thing is that Isco tries to make up for those weaknesses with his work rate which is exceptional as well.

Isco made some wayward crosses to his intended targets in the form of Ronaldo and Bale and that could hurt Real Madrid against a stronger side than Espanyol.

His perfectly weighted passes released Bale (after which Bale squared to Ronaldo for a goal), Ronaldo and Benzema throughout the match and that is one skill that is of absolute importance to Real Madrid. Against big teams, that could be the difference between winning and losing a game.

Casemiro

He may feel a bit worthless amongst the Real Madrid galacticos in the dressing room but he certainly didn’t let that affect him on the pitch. Casemiro tackled hard in the midfield and won air balls all over the pitch (an area where Real Madrid have always lacked a good header of the ball).

His first touch can improve. But his shooting technique is the main problem in his game and such poor shooting technique renders him as a defensive midfielder who can’t score. That could become a problem for him the future at a club such as Real Madrid which demands attacking skills even from goalkeepers.

Nevertheless, he played the full ninety minutes and never looked out of breath. That is an asset which could prove vital in the Champions League game coming up midweek against Shakhtar Donetsk.

Benzema

benzema 2015 photo

Real Madrid attacked like there was no tomorrow last night. Even though Ronaldo was at the sweeter end of all moves last night, it was Benzema who acted as a bridge between Ronaldo and Bale.

His close control was great last night (took out two defenders with two touches in the middle of the park in the first half which must have boosted his confidence). Benzema’s ability to control long ball with his feet with a defender on his back is just supreme and does wonders for Real Madrid in tight games where opposition defenders man mark very well.

His only weakness is his defensive work on corners and free kicks. Gave away a stupid foul right on the edge of the box on the left hand side of the field which luckily didn’t hurt Real Madrid.

Benzema’s closing down ability and his ability to cut passing lanes makes him a unique player in the whole of Europe. No wonder Wenger has been secretly in love with him for a good part of two  years now.

Benzema came close to scoring a goal of his own in the first half after Ronaldo’s pass saw Benzema through on goal but Benzema hit the post from a moderately difficult angle.

Benzema finally got his goal,in the first half,  which was basically a pass finish into the goal, when Ronaldo squared the ball to Benzema. Pretty simple goal which looked sublime because of the speed Real Madrid scored it with.

Benitez, again showing his shrewdness when it comes to substitutions, subbed Benzema on the 62nd minute mark and brought on Lucas.

Now Lucas Vasquez is a bit of a nobody at Real Madrid but he played with great confidence and ease last night.

Lucas dribbling skills impressed the crowd really well last night when he put a napkin on Ronaldo for Ronaldo’s fifth goal of the match after Lucas went past a defender inside the penalty area like a knife through hot butter.

At just 23, Lucas showed really fast feet and good control when he went past two defenders inside the penalty area to take a shot on goal himself which resulted in a corner and a frustrated figure of Ronaldo who expected another square ball from Lucas for his sixth goal of the match.

Gareth Bale

gareth bale photo

Didn’t get on the scoresheet tonight but was the key player in almost all of the goals Real Madrid scored last night.

He got the penalty in the opening few minutes for Ronaldo and Ronaldo scored it like a hammer looking for nails.

Bale played all over the pitch and contributed from every position. His cross to Ronaldo from the left lead to another goal. His ability to make fast ground passes led to a goal from Benzema when Ronaldo, uncharacteristically, squared the ball to him inside the penalty area.

Bale squared the ball again, in the first half after Isco’s perfect through ball to Bale (on the right this time), for Ronaldo to finish the move with a goal.

Gareth Bale’s had the wherewithals and that massive amount of speed in counter attacks which was the spark Real Madrid didn’t have last season because Bale played on the wings all the time.

His playmaking skills from the deep and hard runs across the field had Espanyol chasing shadows all night last night.

In short, Bale played like a Tesla last night. He was strong, powerful and fast but extremely quite. It was Bale who was behind all the goals yet the scoreline (and some pundits) had Ronaldo as the man of the match last night. Which would be a good thing since it would take pressure off Bale and onto Ronaldo.

Cristiano Ronaldo

ronaldo 2015  photo

What can be said about Mr.Perfect. Pundits thought his goal drought was because of his age and his frustration with the success of his arch rival Lionel Messi but boy did he prove them all wrong.

Ronaldo’s first goal came with a placed shot from his right foot into side netting on the far side of the keeper. It was an incisive machine finish which required a needle aim which Ronaldo had at that moment and hence scored the goal.

Ronaldo’s second goal was from a penalty that was won by Gareth Bale. the goalkeeper, lopez, guessed right but as we all know so well, that is not enough against Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s precision with the penalty kick is so sharp that even if the keeper guesses the right direction, he rarely gets a hand to it because it is placed so accurately into the absolute corner of the net.

Ronaldo was at it again when Bale’s cross was met with Ronaldo’s left foot and the ball flew into the net for Ronaldo’s third of the night inside the first twenty minutes.

Ronaldo showed that he is still the man to beat at Real Madrid and according to Keylor Navas, is by far the best player in the world.

After the hat trick goal, Ronaldo looked very relaxed and had a newfound spring in his step. Ronaldo’s razzledazzle skills on the ball along with his hocus pocus trademark step overs caused him to get fouled hard on the flank as is the case in almost every other game. I guess that is what you get for style and substance which Ronaldo had plenty of last night.

Before the first half was over, Ronaldo was doing some defensive work as well as he cleared a cross from a corner with his head only for Marcelo to screw it up.

In the second half, Espanyol looked determined to not let Ronaldo score any more goal when a keeper stopped Ronaldo’s shot and denied him a fourth goal. But that only momentarily stopped Ronaldo as he linked up with Bale again and scored another easy goal after he was setup by Bale (who had stormed through the middle from a deep position inside Real Madrid’s own half  in a counter attack move) from the right hand side of the pitch.

Last night’s match was the 36th time Ronaldo scored three or more goals in a single match. But four goals were not enough for Ronaldo who scored his fifth after some nifty footwork from Lucas set him up for an easy finish from inside the penalty box late in the second half of the game.

But that wasn’t the end either as Ronaldo chased for a sixth goal. He came close with a semi volley shot with his left foot which was off target by a foot or so in the dying minutes of the game.

Conclusion

espanyol real madrid photo

The game was pretty much over for Espanyol inside the first 20 minutes of the game when Real Madrid, thanks to Ronaldo, went 3-0 up on the scorecard. Espanyol had not come back from a deficit of two goals, let alone 3, in more than 489 games before last night.

Real Madrid overpowered Espanyol last night who came into the game wanting an alley fight with Real Madrid. Real Madrid, instead, showed its class and dominated the game with a supreme attacking display.

To Real Madrid’s credit, Real Madrid players didn’t rush their shots and were composed enough to score so many goals.

Real Madrid’s midfield was given too much space and Real Madrid punished Espanyol for that mistake.

Espanyol’s attacking game was restricted to, on the wings only because Real Madrid defended deep with great organization.  

It was a perfect performance from Real Madrid. Espanyol tried to slow down the pace of the game in the 2nd half but to no avail as at that point Real Madrid was already  in its fifth gear.

Real Madrid now sit two points behind Barcelona in the La Liga table.

Photo by CDeahr23

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