Rodrygo Goes stole the show as Real Madrid beat Espanyol 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu to reclaim the La Liga title on Saturday.

Real Madrid’s dominant 2021/22 La Liga campaign has finally yielded the dividends, with Los Blancos clinching the title after a hard-fought 2-0 win over Espanyol on Saturday evening. Carlo Ancelotti heavily rotated his side, keeping one eye on the UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester City next week.

Real Madrid unsurprisingly took some to get going, with Espanyol not shying away from taking the game to the hosts, like in the reverse fixture. The Merengues gradually started to dominate the proceedings, and their endeavour brought them the opener just after the half-hour mark, as Rodrygo Goes indulged in a neat interplay with Marcelo before scoring from close range.

Real Madrid remained on top after that, and Rodrygo doubled his and his side’s tally a couple of minutes ahead of half-time. After the interval, Espanyol showed more desire to score, but Real Madrid defended resolutely before going 3-0 up in the 56th minute. Marco Asensio was at hand to find the back of the net after Eduardo Camavinga released him at the end of a counter-attack.

Real Madrid created two more glorious openings, but while Lucas Vazquez inexplicably missed from close range, Isco had a goal ruled out by an offside call. The fourth goal came in the 81st minute as Karim Benzema converted Vinicius Junior’s low pass.

The dominant performance helped Los Blancos clinch the La Liga title in style, and the focus will now turn towards the Champions League and Manchester City. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Carlo Ancelotti’s men following a convincing performance against Espanyol.

Thibaut Courtois: 7/10

Courtois had a lot more work to do than he would have anticipated. But the Belgian goalkeeper stood defiantly in the Real Madrid goal, with a couple of his six saves being out the top drawer. He will need to be at his best against Manchester City next week.

Lucas Vazquez: 7/10

Lucas Vazquez was a solid customer in the right-back slot, deputing ably for Dani Carvajal against Espanyol. The Spanish utility man never let Tonny Vilhena get on top of him, completing four clearances while winning two duels. But he should have done better when Isco set him up for a late chance.

Casemiro: 7/10

Casemiro returned to the side after recovering from his injury. And he slotted into an unfamiliar makeshift centre-back role. The Brazilian showed some teething problems in the position but left his mark on the game by completing several critical defensive actions. He also progressed Real Madrid forward purposefully and at a quick tempo, warming up well for the Manchester City clash.

Jesus Vallejo: 7/10

Vallejo got a rare chance to impress and was a rock at the heart of the Real Madrid defence. The Spaniard, in perhaps his final outing for Real Madrid, completed several crucial clearances (three), blocks (two) and tackles (two). At the same time, he only misplaced two passes, demonstrating how good he was against Espanyol.

Marcelo: 8/10

Marcelo made one of his final appearances for Real Madrid on Saturday, and he was determined to enjoy himself on the pitch. The Real Madrid captain linked up beautifully with Rodrygo Goes and exchanged passes superbly in the build-up to the opener. He also defended smartly, ensuring Aleix Vidal was rarely on top of him. In the end, Marcelo won his 24th title with Real Madrid, becoming their most successful player ever.

Luka Modric: 8/10

Modric got a run-out for an hour against Espanyol, and he was instrumental in asserting Real Madrid’s dominance on Saturday. The Croat was, by far, the best player for his side during a slow start to the game, and he opened up play nicely. Modric also won the ball in the build-up before initiating the counter-attacking leading up to Marco Asensio’s goal. He will have a bigger role to play against Manchester City.

Eduardo Camavinga: 8/10

Eduardo Camavinga sat at the base of the Real Madrid midfield as Casemiro played as a makeshift centre-back. And the Frenchman controlled the game superbly, never letting Espanyol get on top of his side while completing 92 per cent of his attempted passes. He also created two chances while providing the assist for Asensio’s goal.

Dani Ceballos: 8/10

Dani Ceballos earned a rare start for Real Madrid and took his opportunities with both hands. The Spaniard constantly looked to push his side forward and still misplaced only four passes all game. He also put in the hard yards off the ball, winning eight duels while completing three tackles.

Marco Asensio: 8/10

Marco Asensio spent the first half on the periphery of the action, but he sprung to life after the interval. The Spanish international harried the Espanyol defenders throughout his outing on the pitch. And his efforts were rewarded with Real Madrid’s third goal, as he produced a precise finish with his weaker foot.

Mariano Diaz: 7/10

Ancelotti opted to rest Karim Benzema, meaning Mariano Diaz got a rare chance to impress. The 28-year-old did not find the back of the net but still managed to leave his mark on the game, robbing the ball off Yangel Herrera to practically set Rodrygo Goes for Real Madrid’s second goal. He came close to scoring twice, but his close-range strike smashed the woodwork.

Rodrygo Goes: 9/10

Rodrygo has endured a stop-start 2021/22 campaign, but he set the record straight and showed that he has a lot to offer amid widespread speculation linking Real Madrid with Kylian Mbappe. The Brazilian international linked up superbly with Marcelo, who found him for the opener.

Rodrygo then showed superb awareness to pounce on Mariano’s brilliant pressing before netting the second. It was the kind of performance that will earn him a starting berth against Manchester City on Wednesday and keep him in contention for a regular berth  next season.

SUBSTITUTES

Toni Kroos: 7/10

Kroos initially slotted in as a makeshift centre-back and played the sweeper role with aplomb. He moved into his usual deep-lying playmaker role upon Mario Gila’s introduction and relayed the possession with consummate ease.

Karim Benzema: 8/10

There is no stopping Karim Benzema at the moment, even when he appears off the bench for a run around the pitch. The Frenchman looked in the mood against Espanyol, creating the chance for Isco that was ruled out for offside before finding the back of the net by converting a low pass by Vinicius Junior.

Isco: 7/10

Isco replaced Casemiro to make one of the final appearances for Real Madrid. And the Spaniard looked in the mood to make a difference, carving a brilliant opening for Lucas Vazquez while finding the back of the net. But while Vazquez missed the target, his strike was ruled out as Rodrygo was impeding Diego Lopez’s view. Nonetheless, it was a positive cameo by Isco on Saturday.

Mario Gila: N/A

Gila replaced Camavinga to make his Real Madrid debut. And he helped see the game out without much fuss.

Vinicius Junior: N/A

A late introduction, Vinicius Jr. was a bundle of energy in the game’s dying embers and set Karim Benzema up for Real Madrid’s fourth goal.

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