BARCELONA – It was Karim Benzema who brilliantly set things up and Casemiro who contributed the only goal of Real Madrid’s 1-0 road victory at RCDE Stadium against Espanyol on Sunday, putting the capital squad two points ahead of Barcelona in the LaLiga standings and leaving the rival squad at the bottom of the pit in last place, 10 points below the relegation threshold.
Zinedine Zidane’s squad took advantage of Barcelona’s 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo to notch its fifth consecutive win and become the sole LaLiga leader in a match that lacked rhythm but which Benzema decided just moments before halftime with a marvelous tap to Casemiro on a no-look backheel move right between the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa.
It was all Real Madrid throughout the match, although Espanyol put up a rather valiant fight. But the capital team held on to the ball for 69 percent of the time, outshot the home team 14-8 and got more shots on goal (6-5) with Thibaut Courtois making five saves.
Madrid also got more corner kicks than its rival (5-0).
Francisco Rufete, Espanyol’s sporting director, had taken over on Saturday as the squad’s fourth team manager so far this dismal season, replacing Abelardo Fernandez after he had found himself the third Espanyol coach to be canned so far this campaign.
The match was played before empty stands, all soccer matches being contested behind closed doors at present due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In the 32nd week of the season, Real Madrid is just six victories – or five wins and a draw – away from securing its second Spanish soccer title since 2012, and may get another break, sending them farther ahead of the Catalonians, when third-place Atletico Madrid goes up against Barcelona on Thursday.