And therein lies a point not-so-much merit for Real Madrid. If their victory over Roma in midweek showcased they are still getting used to the style of play under Julen Lopetegui, this win over Espanyol showed they are still to get used to the style of play under Julen Lopetegui. The performance was sometimes laboured, and anything but comfortable.
Espanyol themselves headed into this game with seven points from four games, good reading for them. Rubi’s team were more than happy to sit back and hit Real on the break, which they did, only some inches and Real goalie Thibaut Courtois denied them taking the lead, with Pablo Piatti and Hernan Perez denied.
Real were far from comfortable, the pressing was good but the passing wasn’t quite up to scratch. Nevertheless, they took the lead just before the break, Luka Modric’s shot deflecting onto the path of Marco Asensio, who drilled a low shot past Diego Lopez in the Espanyol goal. At first, referee Mateu Lahoz ruled for offside, but after consulting VAR, the goal was allowed to stand.
Real were still lacking penetration in the second half, despite the introductions of Mariano Diaz and Lucas Vazquez, and it looked like they had gifted Espanyol an equaliser when Sergio Ramos lost possession to Borja Iglesias, but the latter’s chip over Courtois hit the crossbar. The performance was unconvincing, but it was still three points to Los Blancos.
That win puts Real back level on points with Barcelona, who could draw at home to Girona. Things looked to be going well when Arturo Vidal set up Lionel Messi for the opening goal, but 10 minutes before halftime Barca would get reduced to 10 men after Clement Lenglet was sent off for a foul on Pere Pons. And on the stroke of the interval. Girona would find their leveller as Cristhian Stuani ghosted in past makeshift centre-back Sergio Busquets to equalise for the visitors. Stuani would get his second after break, from a rebound after Marc Andre Ter-Stegen saved from Portu six minutes into the second half. But Gerard Pique would grab an equaliser for Ernesto Valverde’s side just past the hour mark, as both sides shared the spoils.
Elsewhere, Valencia’s wait for a first win of the season continues, after a draw at Villarreal in a game where skipper Dani Parejo was sent off, as well as manager Marcelino, the latter on his return to his old club.
Alaves, meanwhile, go third after Ibai Gomez’s brace helped them to a 5-1 win at Rayo Vallecano; only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have picked up more points this calendar year than Abelardo’s team.
Atletico got back to winning ways in the league with victory at Madrid neighbours Getafe, thanks to Thomas Lemar and an own goal from Getafe goalie David Soria. Wissam Ben Yedder scored a hatrick as Sevilla romped to a 6-2 win at Levante, nine-man Real Sociedad won at Huesca, while despite Iago Aspas scoring twice, Celta were denied victory at home to Valladolid thanks to a stoppage time equaliser from Leo Suarez, and ten-man Bilbao threw away a two-goal lead at Betis.
Celta Vigo 3-3 Valladolid
Real Betis 2-2 Bilbao
Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol
Levante 2-6 Sevilla
Huesca 0-1 Real Sociedad
Barcelona 2-2 Girona
Eibar 1-0 Leganes
Getafe 0-2 Atletico Madrid
Villarreal 0-0 Valencia
Rayo Vallecano 1-5 Alaves
Image Credit: Marca