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Real Madrid vs. Espanyol: Score, Grades and Reaction to La Liga Match

Published by Bleacher Report on Sat, 10 Jan 2015

Real Madrid recorded their first win of 2015 on Saturday, beating Espanyol 3-0 in their first home fixture of the year to bounce back from successive defeats against Valencia and Atletico Madrid.First-half goals from James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale set Los Merengues on course for victory, and while Fabio Coentrao's red card may have put the result in doubt, their 10 men pulled through to bounce back to winning ways:It took Carlo Ancelotti's host only 12 minutes to open the scoring against a team who only recorded their first away win of the season three weeks ago.Cristiano Ronaldo may be the scoring talisman at the Bernabeu, but the Portuguese took on the role of playmaker for Rodriguez, cutting back from the left to give his Colombian team-mate a marquee finish, per WhoScored.com:Ancelotti will be angered by his side's recent defeats, but as the club's official Twitter account attests, this was a far more promising performance for the European champions on home soil:As the fixture wore on, visiting goalkeeper Kiko Casilla began to feel a lot of pressure, but the second goal conceded was out of the unstoppable category.The home outfit were awarded a free kick 25 yards from Casilla's goal, and Bale's left foot stepped up to curl in off the post with aplomb. Remarkably, this was Real's first free-kick goal of the campaign, per ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan:Espanyol headed into the break with that two-goal deficit established, knowing some divine intervention would be needed in order to turn the tide.And Sergio Gonzalez's side received some reprieve, too, after Fabio Coentrao and Jose Canas met in a crunch tackle, the referee adjudging Coentrao to have led with his studs up as Canas crumpled under the challenge.Both players appeared to slide in equally, but Real were reduced in numbers thanks to Coentrao's rash decision, putting their lead in some doubt.Ancelotti rung the changes in the second period, with Nacho and Asier Illarramendi coming on. The former even managed to add to the hosts' lead, despite their disadvantage.Bale was enjoying a pleasing performance, but toward the end of the tie, questions of greed and decision-making were once again raised around the Welshman.He drew some fire for not making the right calls against Atleti in the Copa del Rey, and as Corrigan and Jamie Kemp of Inside Spanish Football state, another chance was fluffed:According toAS.com, the crowd also had a mixed reaction in regards to Bale during the match:The fans in the Bernabu were none too pleased either and whistled Bale the next few times he touched the ball, though he did then receive applause once the fans moment of irritation had passed and they remembered the player had been instrumental in the first goal with his pass to Ronaldo, and had scored a wonderful free-kick for the second.Corrigan provides Ancelotti's comments on the fans' reaction:It mattered for little as far as the scoreline was concerned, but even in the face of a 3-0 victory, Real have a selection of points where they might critique this display.Having said that, just to get back on the winning track will be a pleasing sight for those at the Bernabeu, returned to their temple for the first time in 2015 and seeing great benefit.Selected Player RatingsJames Rodriguez:AReal's brightest player on Saturday, Rodriguez took it upon himself to play the guise of lead puppeteer. Per WhoScored.com, the South American star held a passing accuracy of 91 percent and pressed upon Casilla's goal from the beginning.Alvaro Gonzalez: DIt's a responsibility that no defender truly envies, and Alvaro Gonzalaez struggled in his duties to contain arguably the finest attack in Europe on Saturday.A last-man tackle late in the second half made up for the centre-back's display somewhat, but Espanyol were shown to be off the pace in comparison with their hosts, Karim Benzema able to fend off Gonzalez's pressure far too easily.Gareth Bale: B+A mixed day for the winger saw Bale go from the highest of highs to a low in the eyes of his team-mates after one again giving ammunition to those recently calling him greedy.That dim moment near game's end can't gloss over what was otherwise a bright outing, though, with his spectacularly curled free-kick standing out as the most acute of impact contributions.What's AheadFrom here, Real Madrid make the short trip to face Getafe next Sunday, a fixture which should give them the opportunity to move further ahead in La liga's title race.At this point, Ancelotti's men are now focused on consistency with results, merely hoping the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid will drop off.For Espanyol, a home match against Celta Vigo looks to be a potential decider in the race for a top-six place. They are currently tied in the standings and are each seeking to find an edge.
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