Karim Benzema netted a dramatic late brace as Real Madrid maintained their perfect start to the season by beating Espanyol 3-1 on Sunday night.
Vinicius Junior had put Los Blancos ahead before Joselu equalised, but the talismanic Benzema stole the points for the visitors by converting Rodrygo’s cross in the 88th minute. He then netted a free kick after goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte was sent off.
Chances were at a minimum until the visitors opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Tchouameni – at the base of Real’s midfield following Casemiro’s move to Manchester United – charged forward and linked with Lucas Vazquez before picking out Vinicius to finish into the far corner.
The Brazilian brought a good stop from Lecomte before Espanyol got back on level terms. Oscar Gil found Joselu and the former Newcastle striker found a way past Thiabout Courtois on the second attempt to equalise.
A quick corner nearly produced a lead for the home side as Brian Olivan pinged it to the back post where Joselu was waiting, but Courtois got his arm up to deny him.
Lecomte was then called into action again, diving at full stretch to deny Benzema after excellent driving midfield play from substitute Eduardo Camavinga.
The visitors weren’t to be denied the victory as Rodrygo cut inside and clipped a precise cross towards the back post for the lurking Benzema to prod in on the volley and take Real back to the top of the La Liga table.
The drama didn’t end there, however, as home goalkeeper Lecomte whacked Dani Ceballos on the edge of the box to earn a red card, eventually given after much deliberation from the officials.
Stand-in goalkeeper Leandro Cabrera had no chance from the resulting free kick, getting his footwork in a tangle as Benzema speared his shot into the near corner to add some gloss to the scoreline.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – 7/10 – Regularly called into action and saved his side from falling behind. Just couldn’t deny Joselu at the second time of asking.
RB: Lucas Vazquez – 6/10 – Worked extremely hard down the right and created one decent opportunity.
CB: Eder Militao – 5/10 – Somewhat unlucky to have the ball ricochet off his back and into Joselu’s path for the equaliser. Not that convincing throughout.
CB: Antonio Rudiger – 6/10 – Very good with the ball, rarely giving it away. Effective in defence.
LB: David Alaba – 7/10 – Got forward very frequently and linked up effectively with Vinicius.
CM: Luka Modric – 5/10 – Not at his majestic best and was rightfully brought off for Camavinga to add some more legs in midfield.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 8/10 – Got the start after Casemiro’s departure and didn’t disappoint, recovering the ball well and moving attacks forward from the base of midfield.
CM: Toni Kroos: – 6/10 – Had a game-high 97 touches and pulled the strings in midfield. Did lose the ball a little easily at times.
RW: Federico Valverde- 6/10 – Didn’t shirk his workload but struggled for moments of fluency in attack.
ST: Karim Benzema – 7/10 – Saved his best until the end, connecting with Vinicius’ cross before adding a free kick to his tally for the night.
LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Showed the cold edge he has added to his game with the opener of the night. Had a couple of other efforts saved and blocked but looked threatening all night.
SUB: Eduardo Camavinga (58′ for Modric) – 7/10 – Helped Real drive from midfield.
SUB: Rodrygo (58′ for Valverde) – 7/10 – Terrific cross was converted by Benzema for 2-1.
SUB: Dani Ceballos (80′ for Kroos) – 6/10 – Got his leg booted by Lecomte as the goalkeeper was sent off and the subsequent free kick scored by Benzema.
SUB: Dani Carvajal (85′ for Vazquez) – 6/10 – On for the final few stages, which included a big chunk of added time.
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti – 7/10 – Ancelotti got the timing of his first substitutions spot on as the added legs helped Real over the line. A good night’s work.