Karim Benzema was the sole bright spot as Real Madrid slumped to a 2-1 defeat to Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday.
Coming on the back of a shock loss to Sheriff Tiraspol in the UEFA Champions League earlier in the week, Real Madrid would have been eager to show that that defeat was merely a rare blip. However, that did not prove to be the case, as the visitors were sluggish from the word go, which handed Espanyol the initiative to look for scoring opportunities.
The Periquitos did find the breakthrough in the 17th minute after initially seeing Adrian Embarba being denied by Thibaut Courtois. This time Raul de Tomas made no error in handing Espanyol the lead following a fine run and cut-back by Embarba, finding the former Real Madrid striker in point-blank range.
Real Madrid then took control of the game and probed in search of an equaliser, although they lacked the cutting edge to do so. And Los Blancos were shocked again at the hour mark as Aleix Vidal helped Espanyol double their lead with a brilliant solo effort after taking a quick free-kick at the halfway line.
The Merengues did look the likelier side to score thereafter, and shortly after being denied by an offside call, Karim Benzema did score a superb goal in the 71st minute. Alas, another goal did not come, with Real Madrid being denied by a call from VAR once again. With Espanyol handing them their first La Liga defeat of the season, The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Carlo Ancelotti’s men.
Thibaut Courtois: 6/10
There was not a whole lot that Courtois could have done to prevent either of the goals scored by Espanyol after being sold short by the defence in front of him. The Real Madrid no. 1, though, did make a couple of smart stops to ensure Espanyol did not run away with the game.
Lucas Vazquez: 5/10
Back in the right-back slot, Lucas Vazquez provided a major outlet down the right flank and played as many as three key passes. However, the Spaniard struggled at the back at times, with Adrian Embarba giving him a fair bit to worry about. Has not been too convincing of late.
Eder Militao: 4/10
A game to forget for Eder Militao, who was culpable of being switched off when Raul de Tomas handed Espanyol the lead. Did win six duels while completing three clearances but ended up being too poor in the key defensive moments, which in turn played its part in Real Madrid’s defeat.
With David Alaba stationed as the left-back, Nacho was back at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. However, strangely enough, the Spanish defender was not as composed as usually has been when playing as a full-back. That did prove to be telling as Nacho was easily beaten by Aleix Vidal in the lead-up to the second Espanyol goal.
David Alaba: 5/10
A rare game in which Alaba was deployed as a left-back. This time around, though, the Austrian international was nowhere near his best, suffering a fair bit defensively, especially leaving the backline exposed in the build-up to the opening Espanyol goal. Provided a constant outlet down the left flank and did play three key passes, but he needed to do so much more overall.
Federico Valverde: 6/10
The best of the four Real Madrid midfielders, Valverde was industrious as usual in his display, working his socks off to hand his team the control in the game while also completing 90 percent of his attempted passes. Won seven duels while making four tackles.
Toni Kroos: 4/10
Making his first start of the season, it was always clear that Kroos was going to be a little rusty in the game. And that is exactly what proved to be the case as the German playmaker could not set a quick tempo to the game, even though he was typically precise with the ball at his feet. Will hope to find stable footing in the coming weeks.
Luka Modric: 4/10
A game to forget for Modric, who just could not manage to get used to the pace that Espanyol set in the game. The veteran Croat started off by losing the ball cheaply, although he went unpunished in that moment. Was overrun in the middle of the park a few too many times, including in the build-up to the second goal scored by the hosts.
Eduardo Camavinga: 5/10
Deployed on the left side of a four-man midfield unit, Camavinga showed a lot of energy that has been so typical of him in his young career. However, while the French prodigy completed all but one of his attempted passes, he did not quite have the right ideas to carve open the Espanyol defence and was taken off at half-time with a knock.
Karim Benzema: 8/10
As is the case ever so often, Benzema was by far the best player for Real Madrid. The Frenchman put in the hard yards as always and even mustered up a joint-game-high four key passes, only for the rest of his teammates to be well off their levels. Took matters into his own hands to score a fine goal by pulling the trigger at the right moment. Needs more support.
16 – Karim Benzema 🇫🇷 has been involved in 16 goals in eight LaLiga games this season (nine goals and seven assists), the best start in goal involvement at this stage in the competition in the 21st century after Cristiano Ronaldo 🇵🇹 in 2014/15 (17 – 16 and one). Galactic. pic.twitter.com/FESSZZ6xLY
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 3, 2021
Vinicius Jr.: 5/10
Vinicius Jr. has so often been the man who shines in crucial moments for Real Madrid early in the season. However, this time around, the Brazilian forward was nowhere to be seen and he really lacked ideas to make anything work in the end.
Rodrygo Goes: 6/10
Introduced in place of Camavinga at half-time, Rodrygo provided an injection of energy from the flanks, although he could not really influence the game directly apart from his contribution in the lead-up to Benzema’s strike.
Luka Jovic: 6/10
Jovic did get an assist for his contribution in the build-up to the goal scored by Benzema but just could not make any meaningful contribution otherwise. Failing to take up his chances.
On for Kroos, Casemiro ensured Real Madrid were much more organised following his introduction but he could not up the tempo of the game, as required.
Eden Hazard: 6/10
A bright spark after coming on for Vinicius Jr., Hazard linked up well with Benzema and even had the ball in the back of the net, only to be denied by an offside call.