Skip to content

Copa del Rey: Benzema gives Real Madrid one-goal lead after leg one at Espanyol

Jan 21, 2014, 6:34 PM EDT

gareth_bale_real_madrid AP

For the second time in 10 days, Real Madrid is leaving Estadi Cornellà-El Prat with a  1-0 win, but whereas their victory on Jan. 10 left questions doubt about the team’s new setup, a controlling performance on the back of a five-goal league win carries a different connotation. Instead of feeding doubts, today’s first leg win in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals augurs well for next week’s reverse, the Merengues having taken a confident step toward the competition’s final four.

That confidence was evident in the 15th minute when Gareth Bale‘s flick of an Álvaro Arbeloa cross found Karim Benzema at the far post, the French international giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. It was also apparent in the second half when lax play gave Javier Aguierre’s side two chances to craft late equalizers. For most of the night, however, that confidence manifest in a tacit control of play, with El Real out-passing Espanyol 588-420 while maintaining 58 percent of possession.

It also led to seven shots on target, though Kiko Casilla didn’t have to give a remarkable effort to keep six of them out. Seemingly content with their one-goal lead, Real Madrid took the foot off the gas in the second half (if they ever had it on), recording only eight of their 22 shots after intermission. Over the final half hour, particularly after Xabi Alonso replaced Ángel Di María, los Blancos appeared intent on preserving a 1-0 lead for next week’s second leg.

In that way, today’s match had a slightly different feel from the one two Sundays ago. Then, as Carlo Ancelotti switched his side to a 4-3-3, the team had yet to prove their tweaks would lead to a more dominant product on the field. Failing to put more than one goal past Espanyol, Real Madrid looked like the decent but still lacking product they’d been throughout the fall.

By Tuesday, coming off a 5-0 win at Real Betis on Saturday, some of those questions have been answered. With five different goal scorers in Seville, Real Madrid showed the potential for a more diverse, potentially more potent attack. Being able to consistently produce such performances remains a doubt, but in controlling today’s match in Catalonia, Real Madrid showed their new approach may yet plug some of their holes.

In the context of a two-leg tie, a measured, controlling performance at Espanyol could be seen as an extension of this weekend’s dominance, even if the scoreboard shows a more modest result.

Latest Posts
  1. Rumors know no window: Liverpool after Reus, Manchester United wants Draxler

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    FC St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Getty Images

    And it’s claimed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will sign a veteran back from Juventus, bucking his trends of signing attackers and youth.

  2. Indonesian clubs concede five own goals in four minutes, may have feared mafia (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    BBC BBC

    PSS Sleman and PSIS Semarang have been disqualified from their country’s playoffs after conceding five own goals in their their match.

  3. VIDEO: Hugely-controversial call sees FC Dallas past Vancouver in playoffs. Your vote?

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Kendall Waston, Ethen Sampson, Mark Geiger AP

    Michel converted the penalty past David Ousted, and FC Dallas hung on for the win in an otherwise fast-paced, fun game in Texas.

  4. Report: Carlos Vela to accept call-up to Mexican National Team

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Carlos Vela is set to return to the Mexican National Team making them a much more dangerous side.

  5. Trailer released for ‘Die Mannschaft’, story of Germany’s 2014 World Cup win

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final AP

    Nothing like a behind-the-scenes World Cup doc to pique the interest.

  6. Vincent Tan ready to invest in Major League Soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Vincent Tan. Coming to a MLS club near you!

  7. Timbers’ Steve Zakuani announces retirement from professional soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Steve Zakuani AP

    Steve Zakuani. A supremely talented player, forced to call it quits way too early.

  8. Fan slaps Franck Ribery with a scarf, David Alaba hits a belter in Bayern’s win over Hamburg

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

    Hamburger SV v FC Bayern Muenchen - DFB Cup Getty Images

    Franck Ribery is short but probably not the kind of guy you want to mess with.

  9. League Cup Roundup: Balotelli saves Liverpool, Newcastle defeat Manchester City

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Swansea City - Capital One Cup Fourth Round

    A late equalizer from Mario Balotelli helps spur the rally that sees Liverpool into the League Cup quarter-finals.

  10. Rio Ferdinand suspended three matches, fined $40,000, for abusive tweet

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Beware, Premier League footballers. The FA is all over Twitter.

  11. Report: Spanish legend Raul signs with the New York Cosmos

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FC Schalke 04 - Press Conference Getty Images

    Raul signs with the Cosmos, will head up the youth program upon retirement.

  12. Getafe’s Alexis suspended four months for swipe at Mario Mandzukic

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    VfB Stuttgart v FC Getafe - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Mandzukic makes a meal of it and the Royal Spanish Football Federation eats it up.

  13. Kolorov: City have been better than United for ‘five or six years’

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    In the lead up to the Manchester Derby, Aleksander Kolorov believes City have overtaken United as kings of Manchester.

  14. Swansea City to appeal Federico Fernandez red card

    Oct 29, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Garry Monk really, really doesn’t like officials.

  15. David Moyes linked with possible move to Spain

    Oct 29, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Everton v Manchester United - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Everton and Manchester United boss has been linked with a possible move to Real Sociedad.

  16. FIFA gives Nigeria deadline to avoid ban

    Oct 29, 2014, 12:23 PM EDT

    Orange AFCON, Morocco 2015 Final Round Qualifier: South Africa v Nigeria Getty Images

    The Nigerian Football Federation faces a seven-month ban if they do not comply with FIFA’s demands.

  17. Ryan Bertrand open to permanent Southampton move

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:35 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    The left-back on loan from Chelsea says it makes sense to stay at St. Mary’s.

  18. MLS Playoffs Knockout Round Preview: Win or go home

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:47 AM EDT

    FC Dallas v Colorado Rapids Getty Images

    It’s all on the line as the knockout round of the MLS Playoffs kicks off tonight.

  19. Men in Blazers podcast: The van Gaal-Mourinho Rom-Com, Jurgen’s unexpected FIFA award and Megan Rapinoe guests

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:03 AM EDT

    meninblazers

    Rog and Davo break down the Louis van Gaal-Jose Mourinho Rom-Com, Saturday’s El Clásico and Jurgen Klinsmann’s unexpected FIFA award nomination. U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe guests.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby