La Liga 2016/17: Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol, 5 Talking Points

Gareth Bale scored on his return to the Real Madrid line-up after injury

Goals from Alvaro Morata and Gareth Bale in each half saw Real Madrid comfortably brush off RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid yesterday. Madrid, who had disposed off a talented Napoli side midweek in the Champions League, barely had to break a sweat in the game which saw the likes of Luka Modric and Karim Benzema rested.

Also Read: La Liga 2016/17: Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol, Player Ratings

The win sees Real Madrid retain their top spot on the table, with a three-point lead over Sevilla, who have played two games more.

Here are the five talking points from the game:

#1 Gareth Bale announces his return in style

It is never easy being out for three long months with an ankle injury, and then having to make a comeback in a team as competitive as Real Madrid. However, Gareth Bale is on a different level than most footballers, so he made a return with such panache that can only be matched by a handful in world football.

Having been brought on for Morata in the closing stages, the Welshman’s introduction saw the home side finally express their authority on the pitch. He scored his goal from a sweeping counter-attack after he ran on to a pass fed by the brilliant Isco and smashed the ball home at the far end of the goalkeeper.

The goal not only doubled their lead but also made it clear to Zidane that, when fit, Bale is his best choice in the wide areas.

#2 The Cristiano Ronaldo of old is back

Ronaldo did not get on the score-sheet but had a good game

Age may be catching up with the Portuguese star, but it seems he is trying to adapt his game to suit his body. Against Napoli, he was often the creator from the wing, turning players in and out to create passes for others or to just hold up play.

Yesterday, he did the same although he was not as successful as he was against the Italian team. The Ballon d’Or winner squandered a great chance to score in the second half, although one goal of his was wrongly disallowed in the first half.

The manner in which he nutmegged an Espanyol defender near the by-line reminded many of the Ronaldo from his Manchester United days, and with his side finally peaking, Zidane will require his superstar to don his play-making avatar more often.

#3 Espanyol looked lethargic

Reyes didn’t conjure many chances for Espanyol and had to do a lot of defending

Any team cannot afford to come to the Bernabeu and expect to give Real Madrid a run for their money by being tardy. However, Espanyol were just that yesterday, especially in their attacking play. The likes of Jose Antonio Reyes, Jurado, Gerard Moreno and Piatti could hardly muster anything in the Real half, and were not eager to drop deep and create either.

The side from Catalunya should be thankful that Real’s wayward passing in the final third and the brilliance of their backline – especially Duarte – to not lose by a much bigger margin. This was Espanyol’s second loss on the trot and their 19th against Madrid in all competitions, and it is hardly a surprise to see why, given their jadedness and lack of imagination.

#4 The Madrid midfield on form again

Isco dictated play from the Madrid midfield

Having to pick from Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Isco, Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic can be a challenging job, but it is a conundrum most managers would love to have. With Modric on the bench, Zidane picked the trio of Kovacic, Kroos and Isco last night and all three were sublime, especially Isco.

The former Malaga player set up both the goals, with the first one coming from an exquisite cross while the second one came from one of his perfectly weighted through balls. His forays upfront allowed Kroos to play the regista role, while Kovacic handled the physical threat of the Espanyol midfielders.

All in all, the Bernabeu faithful can certainly boast of having a midfield which is almost impossible to compete with.

#5 Varane is a touch of class

Varane had a good game and led the Madrid defence superbly in the absence of club captain, Sergio Ramos

Raphael Varane was signed from the French side RC Lens with the objective of becoming a mainstay in the Madrid team for the next decade. However, life under Zidane has not been easy for him as he has found opportunities hard to come by, mainly due to the brilliant defensive partnership of club captain Sergio Ramos and Portuguese defender Pepe. However, he has been more than up to the task whenever he has been called upon, as was the case yesterday.

The Frenchman had to fill in the boots of the injured Ramos, and he did so with considerable ease. With 95 touches, two tackles, one interception and passing accuracy of 91.7%, he sniffed out whatever little that Espanyol had to offer while going forward.

The French defender looks set to provide his Spanish counterpart a tough competition in the starting line-up as the business end of the season kicks in.

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Edited by Staff Editor
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