Facing the new solo leader of Primera, Real Madrid, Espanyol certified his virtual relegation to the Second Division (0-1). A goal from Casemiro, previous genius of Benzema, just before the break, crumbled the white-and-blue resistance in his last attempt to work a miracle. The results of the day moved the parakeets 10 points away from salvation when there are 18 left to play. The reality for the whites is the opposite: after Barça’s draw in Vigo, Zidane’s men are two points behind Barça at the top of the table.
And that the debut on the bench of Rufete, the fourth Spanish coach of the course, made things quite difficult for those of Zinedine Zidane. Aware that the category could be lost, but not the dignity or professionalism, Espanyol tried to face up to an appointment of maximum demand. Zidane did not experiment, while Rufete contributed his stamp by adding some tweaks to a structure similar to the one Abelardo was presenting.
Beyond the presence of Víctor Gómez on the right side, the main novelty was the exchange of positions between Wu Lei, who started from the far right, and Embarba, relocated as the second striker. Both generated some headaches in the backs of Marcelo and Casemiro in the first minutes, but they went from more to less. Above, just in point, a Raúl de Tomás who had not been a starter since March 8. The Madrid striker left many technical details, but lived far away from the rival area and, too often, exceeded in flourishes that did not contribute anything to the team. With a structure similar to previous games, but more predisposed to play below at the beginning of each play, Espanyol created some problems for the white defense in transitions on the side of Wu Lei. The Chinese assisted Darder to the heart of the area, enjoyed a couple of good chances and dropped into a face-off with Ramos in which he had the chances to win. Espanyol, faithful to its disastrous trajectory this season, remained without a fine-tuned goal. A sin that will accompany him to the grave.
Benzema punishes with magic
Madrid, surprised by the good staging of the Spaniards, was gradually maturing the game, lengthening the possessions with constant changes of side and a lot of mobility in its front of attack. The associations between Isco, Benzema and Hazard led to a white-and-blue defense that, despite gradually sinking, only suffered in stoppage time. Ramos and Casemiro were the main threat to a solid Diego Lopez who pulled out several good hands. The only thing that could not avoid the Galician goalkeeper was an exquisite assist from Benzema that left Casemiro alone inside the small area. A real magician’s trick that no defense knew how to decipher. He did not forgive the Brazilian, who put the whites ahead in the last action of the first half.
Espanyol did not lose intensity in the second half. Rufete tried to take a step forward with Pedrosa, showing an image of a competitive team that, however, had many problems to progress with an orderly start. Despite the attempts of the new coach to try not to let his team win any balls, it was very difficult for Espanyol to continue the plays he started inside. The only effective resource was the actions on the ball and the direct play. A long foul by De Tomás and a soft shot by Wu Lei in a transition were the most dangerous warnings in the second half of a Spaniard who was losing physical and mental strength with the passing of the minutes. With the match broken, the little Melendo and Nico Melamed tried to bring one more march with demonic driving. Madrid, however, did not undo their block and knew how to protect the scoreboard.
Before the duel, the general manager José María Duran justified that Abelardo’s dismissal had been taken by the “discouragement” they had noticed in the Asturian coach. “At Espanyol we do not give up, our obligation is to fight. Worse than going down to Segona is not fighting until the end “, added the manager. The white-and-blues will not be able to avoid a well-deserved relegation, but out of respect for the club and a fan who whistles at them from home, they cannot relax until the last minute of the competition. Yesterday, pride gave him no point. An image that has been lacking in too many games against modest rivals this year arrives late.