Monday, 13 January 2014
Real Madrid Move Closer To Top After Win
in their pursuit of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in the Spanish title
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
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, have left Real playing catch up in the title
The third-placed side knew their trip to Espanyol was one which 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
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 and 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.