Real Madrid capitalised on their chance to build a two-point lead over Barcelona, defeating RCD Espanyol 2-0 away from home on Sunday.

Real Madrid travelled to Catalonia to face off against Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium in hope to build a two-point lead at the top of the table after Barcelona dropped points against Celta Vigo courtesy of a 2-2 draw.

The game started in favour of the home side, who were able to create three chances in the span of the first half-an-hour only to not make any count. Real Madrid took control of the game after that, but faced a very disciplined Espanyol defence and were able to score no more than one goal, which came at the brink of half-time.

Los Blancos would have scored more had it not been for Diego Lopez’s heroic triple save to keep out efforts from Isco, Karim Benzema and Eden Hazard in one single move. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule of Zinedine Zidane’s men.

Thibaut Courtois: 7.5/10

Courtois was relatively untroubled throughout the game apart from making five saves, three of which were straight at him. The two which were not were in all probability game saving efforts, including a save from Marc Roca’s free-kick in the second half.

Dani Carvajal: 7/10

Carvajal took the second most amount of touches of all players who took to the pitch, but did not face a lot of problems while defending since most of the Espanyol attacks came through Marcelo’s wing. He did, however, lose the ball 22 times, most of any Real Madrid player.

Raphael Varane: 7/10

Varane is extremely quick, but he was lucky to not pick up a booking against Espanyol, after continuously tugging on jerseys to concede free-kicks. He completed 9 off his attempted 13 long balls and was a wall in defence, making sure only one of the player or ball would go past him.

Sergio Ramos: 8/10

Ramos was solid. (Photo by Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images)

Ramos was solid. (Photo by Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images)

Real Madrid captain Ramos registered a stellar 98% pass accuracy against Espanyol, including 13/13 long balls which met their man. He had the chance to give Madrid the early lead through a set-piece header delivered by Toni Kroos, but it did not go past Diego Lopez. Would have made it 6 goals in his last 10 Liga appearances otherwise.

Marcelo: 8/10

Marcelo returned to the lineup thanks to the suspension Ferland Mendy picked up against RCD Mallorca. He was able to make the best use of this start, making 3 interceptions and winning 3 tackles. He also completed 5 of his 7 long balls and won 85% of his ground duels.

Federico Valverde: 7/10

A decent outing for the young Uruguayan midfielder, who completed 2 of his 3 long balls and won 80% of his ground duels. He did not do a lot in the game, and was unbothered on the right side of midfield.

Casemiro: 9/10

The world’s best defensive midfielder returned to action in stunning fashion against Espanyol. The Brazilian scored the only goal of the game on Sunday, winning the match for Real Madrid after receiving the ball from Karim Benzema’s sensational flick, and also put in a tremendous defensive shift.

Casemiro made 2 tackles and interceptions each, and also won 60% of his aerial duels. Apart from this, Casemiro also created 2 key chances thanks to his stellar long passes. A true all round performance from the Brazilian.

Toni Kroos: 8/10

Kroos was the most heavily involved player in the game on Sunday, which hardly comes as a surprise. He took 111 touches, and registered a passing accuracy of over 93.5%. He also attempted 21 long balls, out of which 16 found their target. Kroos was able to set up 2 chances for his teammates too, including a pinpoint set-piece for Ramos which was hit directly at the keeper.

Isco: 6/10

Isco tried to get himself involved in the game by continuously dropping deep and occupying Casemiro’s position, which allowed the Brazilian to move forward, but it made little to no impact as he always ended up passing to the man behind him. He only completed one dribble and one cross.

Karim Benzema: 9/10

Benzema was the focal point of everything right with Madrid’s attack yesterday – once again. He had two shots on target, both of them saved in stunning fashion by Lopez, and also created two chances for his teammates, one of which was a backheel, nutmeg through ball converted by Casemiro.

Benzema also completed 100% of his long balls, and 100% of his attempted tackles. Unstoppable and indispensable in this Real Madrid side, is Benzema.

Eden Hazard: 6/10

The Belgian superstar was arguably the most ineffective starter for Real Madrid. Hazard only completed 50% of his dribbles, making only 28 passes, the least of any starter in the green shirt. Moreover, none of his crosses were accurate, and only 1 of his two long balls reached the target. A rare blips perhaps for Hazard

SUBSTITUTES

Vinicius Junior: 6.5/10

Zidane only made two substitutions against Espanyol, subbing on his two Brazilian gems for Hazard and Isco. Vinicius was able to run at the defence with fresh legs, constantly pinning them back. He also made a crucial tackle after dropping back when Real Madrid were faced with a lethal counter.

Rodrygo Goes: 6/10

Rodrygo was more involved in the final third than Vinicius in the 20 odd minutes they were able to warrant yesterday. He won a free-kick in a dangerous position but also roved unnecessarily offside during a Real Madrid counter attack which could have been easily avoided.

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