For the first four games of Real Madrid’s nascent season the narrative that has largely dominated the team’s discourse has been their lack of aim. Well, with a 3-0 home clobbering of Espanyol, Los Blancos seem to have put that discussion to bed, at least for a bit. While Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t look particularly sharp, and Gonzalo Higuaín seemed lost for most of the game, both players scored as Madrid managed to produce against the battle-hardened Pericos. The defense looked sharp—despite Pepe’s red card—and has only conceded one goal in 5 games. Most of the attacking presence for Los Merengues flowed through the boots of the young midfielders Angel di María and Mesut Özil, who both looked lively and quick on the attack—qualities that have come to be expected of the summer signings.
Espanyol put up quite a fight throughout the game, allowing Madrid to command most of the possession but putting up staunch resistance in defense. The first goal came when CR7 launched a shot from just outside the box and Espanyol's Luís García illegaly stuck up his hand to block it—the Portuguese star slotted home the ensuing penalty kick.
For most of the first half, however, Mourinho’s team didn’t seem particularly involved in the game—they didn’t approach it with the same attacking flair that characterized their match against Ajax. This could be due to Mourinho’s decision to start Lassana Diarra over Sami Khedira at defensive midfielder: Lass’s offensive ineptitude was on display numerous times during the game, though he did add a certain stability to Madrid’s back line.
The game turned in the second half, as both teams came out with slightly more venom in their boots—both Pericos and Vikingos launched vertical, fast-paced attacks. This quick-strike offense led to various attempts for both teams, and both keepers made fantastic stops. It also led, unfortunately for both sides, to a sleuth of tackles, cards and expulsions, as players from each team tried to slow each other down. Pepe for the hosts and Galán for the visitors were each shown red cards in rapid succession for stopping counter-attacks. Later, the Espanyolista Forlín was ejected for cursing at referee Clos Gómez. Even Higuaín, who was mostly absent throughout the first half, was elbowed in the face—a moment that Gómez missed.
It was that moment precisely that turned the game around—a 1-0 snooze fest became a 3-0 destruction in only 10 minutes. El Pipita, seemingly angered by the blow, flipped a mental switch and sprinted up and down the pitch venomously. CR7, who dedicated his goal to his son CR7 Jr., slotted a through-ball right onto Gonzalo’s foot. 2-0. El Pipita was subbed almost immediately afterwards, and Karim Benzema roared onto the pitch, trying to convince Mou that he was deserving of a starting spot. He certainly did the best he could, as he received a ball beautifully in the area, spun, and nailed a shot into the bottom left corner. 3-0. Now that’s more like it.
The question remains, though: how much of this crushing was because of the red cards? We’ll never know, though I think it had more to do with the missed red card that prompted Higuaín’s intensity. What we do know for sure, however, is that this Madrid—Mou’s Madrid—can score lots of goals, and probably will score lots of goals. A fully functional Real Madrid, with these players and this coach, should be a scary thought for the rest of the Liga BBVA.
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