Captain Karim Benzema scored twice in a wild finish as Real Madrid won 3-1 at Espanyol to preserve their 100 per cent record after three games of the LaLiga season.
Vinicius Junior’s tidy finish was cancelled out by a goal from Joselu, who has made a habit of scoring against Madrid since spending three years early in his career with the capital club’s ‘Castilla’ B team.
Benzema had a goal ruled out after the break, while Joselu almost pinched another, before Benzema turned in a cross from Rodrygo to snatch the points. Espanyol goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte was sent off in stoppage time and Benzema added his second from the subsequent free-kick as the game ended chaotically.
The result means Madrid move level on nine points with Real Betis, the next opponents for Carlo Ancelotti’s team and the only other side with a perfect record.
Vinicius fired Madrid into a 12th-minute lead, meeting a smart pass from Aurelien Tchouameni close to the penalty spot and tucking a first-time shot past Lecomte and into the bottom-left corner.
However, it was Espanyol who struck next, equalising in the 43rd minute. Joselu took Oscar Gil’s throughball on board and scored at the second attempt after Courtois made an initial save, with the ball rebounding kindly off Eder Militao for the home striker.
Joselu was in the thick of the penalty-area drama again just before the hour mark when Courtois had to desperately push away his left-footed strike amid a scramble.
Lecomte repelled a 20-yard curling strike from Benzema at the other end, before Madrid’s talisman and captain had a goal disallowed for offside after he prodded in a low ball from Toni Kroos.
As the game entered its closing stages, Benzema met Rodrygo’s expertly crafted cross from the left, tucking in a close-range volley at the far post to thoroughly deflate the hosts.
There was still time for more drama, Lecomte red-carded in stoppage time after a wild attempted tackle on Dani Ceballos just outside the penalty area. Benzema fired the set-piece from 20 yards beyond stand-in goalkeeper Leandro Cabrera, the captain and defender not quite up to the job.
What does it mean? Classic Madrid
Benzema’s second goal arrived in the 100th minute, following a long VAR check to unravel the incident involving Lecomte and Ceballos. That sums up Madrid, as it is never just a 90-minute game against the European champions. They do this time and time again, with opposition teams thinking a fine result is incoming before being cruelly pickpocketed. They are an example for all teams to follow, but nobody does it better than Madrid.
Benz goes through the gears
Benzema won just one of five first-half duels, and only one of two after the break, but it is a mark of the man that he comes good when his team need him most. The veteran striker had tried his luck from range a number of times before Rodrygo’s excellent delivery and his own darting run created a point-blank opportunity. Benzema has now scored 11 goals in 19 appearances in LaLiga against Espanyol.
Can he play you every week? Joselu at it again
Joselu gave up on the prospect of a Santiago Bernabeu career 10 years ago when he switched to join Hoffenheim, but he has now scored seven goals in nine appearances in LaLiga against Madrid. Among players with four or more goals against Los Blancos in the 21st century, nobody can beat that ratio. His 0.78 goals per game against Madrid beats Luis Suarez’s second-best mark of 0.71 (10 goals in 14 games).
Key Opta Facts
– Real Madrid have achieved 106 victories in their 175 games against Espanyol in LaLiga (D33 L36), the record for wins by any team over another in the history of the competition.
– Espanyol have failed to win any of their last 10 LaLiga matches (D4 L6), their worst winless run in the competition since 15 games between June 2020 and September 2021 (D5 L10).
– Real Madrid have conceded at least one goal in each of their last eight LaLiga away games (nine goals in total), their worst streak with Carlo Ancelotti as coach – the Whites had not linked as many visits conceding in the competition since January-April 2019 (8).
– With his brace against Espanyol, Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has scored at least two goals in four LaLiga games in 2022, more than any other player in the competition this year.
Real Madrid will be at home to Betis in LaLiga next Saturday, ahead of their Champions League campaign getting under way the following week. Espanyol return to action against Athletic Bilbao next Sunday.
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