Spanish La Liga
EspanyolEspanyol0Real MadridReal Madrid1

Espanyol 0-1 Real Madrid

By Jonathan JurejkoBBC Sport
Pepe

Pepe's second-half header clinched a much-needed win for Real Madrid in their pursuit of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the Spanish title race.

Carlo Ancelotti's side moved within three points of the top two, despite a disjointed display against Espanyol.

Ballon d'Or favourite Cristiano Ronaldo suffered a rare off day, fluffing a first-half chance inside the six-yard box and curling wide late on.

But Pepe's towering header from Luka Modric's delivery clinched a vital win.

Despite their profligacy, Los Blancos were rarely threatened by a mid-table Espanyol side and looked comfortable as they recorded their seventh straight win in all competitions.

In fact, they have not been beaten since the 2-1 reverse at Barcelona on 26 October. But the defeat at the Nou Camp, coupled with a 1-0 home loss to neighbours Atletico, has left Real playing catch up in the title race.

The third-placed side knew their trip to Espanyol was one where they could not afford to drop points after seeing Atletico hold leaders Barcelona to a goalless draw on Saturday.

Espanyol started on the front foot as they hassled Real from the kick off and could have taken a third-minute lead when Uruguayan forward Cristian Stuani headed wide.

But Madrid gradually found their rhythm after riding out the early pressure, creating all of the best goalscoring opportunities.

Portugal forward Ronaldo, who is expected to be named the world player of the year at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony in Switzerland, failed to cleanly connect with Karim Benzema's square pass before the France striker headed past the Espanyol post in stoppage time.

However, Real needed just 10 minutes of the second half to make their breakthrough. Portugal defender Pepe was left totally unmarked as he nodded into the far corner from Modric's deep free-kick.

World record signing Gareth Bale started his first La Liga game in almost a month after a calf injury, but barely featured before being substituted with a quarter of an hour remaining.

Real continued to press, without being seriously tested at the other end, only for Ronaldo to miss two more clearcut opportunities.

Firstly, the 28-year-old was denied by a superb one-handed save from Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, before delicately bending wide with the home goal gaping.

Line-ups

Espanyol

  • 13Casilla
  • 16López Rodríguez
  • 18Fuentes Hernández
  • 3Rodríguez
  • 19Colotto
  • 15Moreno
  • 25TorjeBooked at 58minsSubstituted forSabrosaat 65'minutes
  • 4Sánchez Mata
  • 24CórdobaBooked at 83mins
  • 22Fernández IglesiasSubstituted forLanzaroteat 65'minutes
  • 8StuaniSubstituted forAfonso Fernandesat 84'minutes

Substitutes

  • 1Parreño Boix
  • 6da Silva Junior
  • 10Afonso Fernandes
  • 11Capdevila
  • 12Lanzarote
  • 20Sabrosa
  • 23González Casanova

Real Madrid

  • 25López
  • 15CarvajalSubstituted forArbeloaat 90+1'minutes
  • 12Marcelo
  • 14Alonso
  • 3Pepe
  • 4Ramos
  • 19ModricBooked at 13mins
  • 22Di María
  • 9BenzemaSubstituted forIllarramendiat 90'minutes
  • 11BaleSubstituted forRodríguez Ruizat 76'minutes
  • 7Cristiano Ronaldo

Substitutes

  • 1Casillas
  • 17Arbeloa
  • 18Nacho
  • 20Rodríguez Ruiz
  • 21Morata
  • 23Isco
  • 24Illarramendi
Referee:
José Antonio Teixeira Vitienes
Attendance:
31,500

Match Stats

Home TeamEspanyolAway TeamReal Madrid
Possession
Home32%
Away68%
Shots
Home11
Away23
Shots on Target
Home1
Away8
Corners
Home3
Away8
Fouls
Home19
Away12

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Espanyol 0, Real Madrid 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Espanyol 0, Real Madrid 1.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Javi López (Espanyol) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Simão.

  4. Substitution

    Substitution, Real Madrid. Álvaro Arbeloa replaces Daniel Carvajal.

  5. Substitution

    Substitution, Real Madrid. Asier Illarramendi replaces Karim Benzema.

  6. Post update

    Attempt missed. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right.

  7. Post update

    Attempt saved. Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Ángel Di María.

  8. Post update

    Attempt missed. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) header from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Luka Modric with a cross following a set piece situation.

  9. Post update

    Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) wins a free kick on the right wing.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Héctor Moreno (Espanyol).

  11. Post update

    Foul by Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid).

  12. Post update

    Pizzi (Espanyol) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  13. Substitution

    Substitution, Espanyol. Pizzi replaces Christian Stuani.

  14. Booking

    Jhon Córdoba (Espanyol) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

  15. Post update

    Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  16. Post update

    Foul by Jhon Córdoba (Espanyol).

  17. Post update

    Foul by Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid).

  18. Post update

    Diego Colotto (Espanyol) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  19. Post update

    Corner, Real Madrid. Conceded by Kiko Casilla.

  20. Post update

    Attempt saved. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Marcelo.

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Sunday 12th January 2014

Top Stories