Real Madrid end goal problems with force against Espanyol
MADRID – Real Madrid came back from a goal deficit to defeat Espanyol 3-1 in Saturday’s LaLiga clash at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Joselu surprisingly put the visitors ahead in the eighth minute, but Vinicius Junior quickly equalized for Madrid, cutting inside and curling a shot into the bottom corner. Rodrygo Goes came close twice as Madrid pressed for a second before Eder Militao headed an Aurelien Tchouameni cross off the bar to put the home side ahead before half-time.
In a quieter second half, Rodrygo hit the woodwork with a free-kick and substitute Marco Asensio scored a third goal in added time, while Madrid clinched the three points to keep hopes of chasing leaders Barcelona.
1. Vinicius, Militao and Asensio end Madrid’s goal drought
At the start of that game, there was talk of Madrid’s attacking line not being fit for purpose, having scored just one goal in their last three games – youngster Alvaro Rodriguez’s header against Atletico Madrid on February 25 – in last weekend’s 0-0 draw Draw at Real Betis concedes more ground in title race. Those worries were compounded when Karim Benzema was out with a broken ankle.
It was an odd, short-term problem to focus on. Does anyone really doubt the quality and goal-scoring ability of Benzema, Vinicius and Rodrygo after what we’ve seen in recent years? And you don’t have to go back that far. As coach Carlo Ancelotti pointed out last week, this is a side who have just scored five goals against Liverpool at Anfield.
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Maybe the team is over-relying on Vinicius’ magic to unlock enemy defenses, but when he’s in this form it’s not a problem. The winger had to beat four Espanyol defenders as he picked up the ball and drove into the field to level the score at 1-1. Rodrygo is an intriguing prospect when picked centrally. Ancelotti’s favored backup of Benzema this season, it looked like he was the most likely to score as Madrid were chasing a second. In fact, it was another Brazilian, Militao, who dominated in both boxes in the air and gave Madrid the lead with their sixth goal of the season.
Madrid are the top scorer in LaLiga despite Benzema’s absence, with 50 goals to Barcelona’s 46. If they don’t win the league – as it looks likely – it won’t be from a lack of goals.
2. Defense questions ahead of Liverpool visit
Madrid’s defensive record this season has been solid; only 1-0 specialist Barca have conceded fewer goals in LaLiga. That hasn’t stopped Ancelotti from frequently rearranging his back four, though, as if he wasn’t entirely happy with what he’s seeing. Goalscorer Militao is certainly one of the first-choice defences, but regular partner Antonio Rüdiger was not always convincing. He was rested here and the experienced Nacho arrived as a reward for his recent performances as a full-back.
Dani Carvajal starts at right-back when available but offers much less cutting edge than in the past. At left-back, Eduardo Camavinga was again forced out of position due to the unavailability of Ferland Mendy and David Alaba, both of whom will be back soon. He was at fault for Espanyol’s opener and failed to convert Ruben Sanchez’s cross for Joselu. Camavinga is an asset going forward, as you’d expect from a midfielder, but you wouldn’t want to field him against Mohamed Salah on Wednesday as Liverpool look to reverse a three-goal deficit in their tie. Expect Mendy to return to the side to face Liverpool when he is fit.
3. Joselu returns to cause trouble for Madrid again
Only Robert Lewandowski has more goals in LaLiga this season than Joselu, Spain’s top scorer. The forward also has an incredible record against Real Madrid, scoring eight goals in 10 games against them in all competitions. He’s in impressive company; only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have preceded him on this list since 2010.
The 32-year-old was briefly a Madrid player himself, scoring just one first-team goal – as well as dozens of goals for reserve team RM Castilla – in the 8-1 win over Almeria in May 2011 – before an unsteady career path that left him for Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hannover, Stoke City and Newcastle United led. He eventually settled in Spain with Alaves and now Espanyol, where he belatedly became one of LaLiga’s most consistent finishers.
Espanyol’s hopes of avoiding relegation this season – defeat here left them just two points adrift of the bottom three at the final whistle – rest firmly on Joselu’s shoulders. Among the relegation rivals, only Getafe can boast such a reliable goalscorer in Enes Unal.
Best and worst performers
Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid: Inspired Madrid’s comeback in the first half and scored the goal of the game.
Joselu, Espanyol: A solid finish gave his team hope for a surprise.
Rodrygo Goes, Real Madrid: Unlucky not to score, close three times including the crossbar.
Eduardo Camavinga, Real Madrid: Not a born left-back and caught in the Espanyol opener.
Martin Braithwaite, Espanyol: The former Barcelona player offered nothing on the left wing.
Vinicius Souza, Espanyol: Couldn’t keep up with the class of Tchouameni, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Highlights and notable moments
After an early deficit, Madrid equalized thanks to Vinicius doing Vinicius things.
Vini Jr. tuned in to equalize 🤩 pic.twitter.com/zALBwCGG4X
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 11, 2023
They then took the lead thanks to Militao’s header, although that goal was all about Tchouameni’s outrageous cross from the outside of his boot.
Eder Militao gives Real Madrid a 2-1 lead 🔥 pic.twitter.com/b6VTWqU5xf
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 11, 2023
After the game: What the players/coaches said
Carlo Ancelotti: “The game was good, we didn’t start well, it could have been complicated, but the goal didn’t change the attitude of the team, we fought back in the first half and controlled the second half.”
Ancelotti on avoiding complacency against Liverpool: “We had an experience with Chelsea last year, we had the advantage and then it was difficult for us. We can’t hide the fact that we have an advantage, let’s hope we use it with a great game, we have to go .” Give everything for 90 minutes like we did in the first leg.”
Vinicius Junior: “We are calm and [when we go behind] we keep coming back. We have to keep going and keep improving and thanks to the fans who came today we have to thank them and hope there’s more on Wednesday.”
Vinicius about his goal: “It’s a move I work on quite a bit in training, but in games it’s more difficult because there are a lot of players around me. But I did well.”
Key Statistics (provided by ESPN Stats & Information Research)
Joselu’s opening goal was his eighth against Real Madrid in all competitions, his second most against a single club (10 against Cadiz). Only Lionel Messi (11) and Luis Suarez (10) have scored more goals against Los Blancos since 2010.
Joselu’s goal ended Real Madrid’s seven-game home shutout streak against Espanyol in LaLiga, the longest streak of its kind against a single club in LaLiga history.
Vinicius Junior has scored in both LaLiga games against Espanyol this season after scoring in the second leg on August 28.
Eder Militao’s goal was his sixth in all competitions for Real Madrid this season – he had previously scored just four since joining the club in 2019.
Militao has scored four of Madrid’s five headed goals in LaLiga this season and he has scored more goals in all competitions (six) than any other LaLiga club defender this season. Next on the list is Rayo’s Florian Lejeune (four) and several players have three, including Barcelona’s Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto.
In his 400th appearance for the club, Toni Kroos has provided his 81st assist for Real Madrid in all competitions – four of which were for Vinicius Junior.
Real Madrid’s last all-competition defeat at half-time was in January 2021 in the Copa del Rey against Alcoyano (1-2 after extra time).
Real Madrid: Liverpool arrive at the Bernabeu on Wednesday to come back from a 5-2 deficit from the first leg of the Champions League round of 16. Then it’s the second of three classic in a few weeks when Madrid on Sunday March 19 (Stream LIVE at 4pm ET on ESPN+ in the US).
Spanish: Celta Vigo travel to Catalonia next Saturday to face Espanyol (Stream LIVE at 1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the US), while both sides try not to be dragged further into the swamp of relegation.
https://www.espn.com/soccer/spanish-laliga/story/4897644/vinicius-junior-helps-real-madrid-end-goal-drought-in-emphatic-style-in-comeback-win-vs-espanyol Real Madrid end goal problems with force against Espanyol