Real Madrid 2-2 Espanyol: 6 Things We Learned from Disappointing Draw
A late equaliser scored by Juan Albin stunned Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Sunday, as Jose Mourinho's team failed to win what should have proved an easy three points.
An early strike from the lively Sergio Garcia had given the underdogs a first-half lead, but Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Coentrao strikes either side of halftime looked to have quelled a brave Espanyol performance.
But Juan Albin's scrambled effort with minutes remaining on the clock provoked instant boos from a home crowd unhappy with their favourite's side's display.
Here are six things we learned from the clash.
Real Look Flimsy Defending the Counter Attack
The warning signs were clear for Real from the opening stages of Sunday's game.
As Los Blancos piled men forward in search of an opening goal, Espanyol lay waiting for a chance to break quickly and expose an unprotected defence.
Sergio Garcia's opener was a perfect example of counter attacking football, as he was fed through one-on-one by a defence-splitting pass from Verdu.
Though they looked a lot more solid in the second half with Sami Khedira sitting back more, by that point, the damage had already been done.
Mixed Outings for Real's Full-Backs
Fabio Coentrao scored a stunning goal to give his side the lead early in the second half, but still struggled for much of the game to penetrate a well-disciplined Espanyol defence.
Arbeloa too failed to have much impact on proceedings, kept under wraps by several blue-and-white shirts on the right flank.
Real Madrid are usually a side capable of being equally devastating from wide positions as they are through the middle.
But Sunday's game highlighted a tactical deficiency that is becoming an increasing problem for Jose Mourinho to solve.
Los Blancos Over Reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo
It will not surprise many to learn that Cristiano Ronaldo was involved in nearly every significant Real Madrid attack—the Portuguese forward is the hub that his team's creative juices flow through.
His goal and superb reverse pass to Coentrao for Real's second showed exactly why he is one of the best footballers on the planet.
With his first-half strike, his tally under Jose Mourinho moves to 100, an incredible statistic considering the relatively brief amount of time the two have worked together.
But his teammates were over-reliant on him Sunday, failing to step up in his stead when he drifted out of the game later in the second half.
Does fresh blood need to be brought to the Bernabeu in January to ease the pressure on Ronaldo, or can the players already at the club serve that purpose?
Was Luka Modric Subsitution Necessary?
With the team struggling to get a grip on the game, Jose Mourinho hauled Luka Modric off at the half, replacing the Croatian with winger Angel Di Maria for more width.
For a 20-minute spell, the change seemed to pay instant dividends. Di Maria played with untamed passion as if he had a point to prove in front of his watching manager.
But after that, he faded from the game, making several misplaced passes and generally looking lackadaisical in possession.
Which is ironic, for the exact same thing can be said of Modric—lively for the first 20 minutes, but far less so as the game wore on.
Real Show Brilliance in Flashes, but Not Enough
This is Real Madrid—with the wealth of talent at Jose Mourinho's disposal, it would be reasonable to expect excellence week in, week out.
Against lowly Espanyol, the team showed brilliance in flashes—making spellbinding runs or devastating passes.
But too often, the players looked devoid of energy and enthusiasm, as if Sunday's game was a task rather than an opportunity.
The boos that rang out at the Bernabeu at the final whistle came not as a result of the away side's equaliser, but of the manner in which Los Blancos had played most of the game.
Mourinho must shoulder much of the blame for not living up to his billing as a premier motivator of men.
Can Real Madrid Win La Liga This Season?
Can Real Madrid win La Liga and retain their title this season?
It's an obvious question in the wake of a poor start to the term and yet more dropped points, but it is nevertheless one worth asking.
On paper, they have the team, the manager and every other factor in their favour, but have toiled in the pursuit of points that would have been a given last season.
With Barcelona way ahead in the standings, a winning run of games may not be enough to catch a side well-versed in the art of winning games and picking up points when it matters.
What did you make of Real's draw with Espanyol? What have we learned about the team?