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Sep 22, 2018 at 7.45pm UK
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Live Commentary: Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol - as it happened

:Headline: Live Commentary: Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol - as it happened:
Relive Sports Mole's live text coverage of Real Madrid's 1-0 win against Espanyol, as a first-half strike from Marco Asensio proved the difference.

Marco Asensio's 41st-minute strike against former club Espanyol earned Real Madrid a 1-0 win at the Bernabeu in Saturday's La Liga encounter.

The Spanish attacker drilled the ball out of Diego Lopez's reach after Luka Modric's shot inadvertently fell into his path.

Madrid were unable to put the game out of their opponents' reach, and the Periquitos nearly levelled up in the second half when Borja Iglesias hit the crossbar.

Relive how the 90 minutes of action unfolded with Sports Mole's live text coverage below.

Hello and welcome to Sports Mole's live text coverage of the La Liga meeting between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu. The home side have collected 10 points from the first 12 on offer and can climb to the top of the table with victory on home soil this evening, while the visitors are aiming to build on what has also been a positive start to their campaign.
The Periquitos have won two and drawn one of their four matches so far, meaning that only Barcelona and opponents Madrid have accumulated more points thus far. This is by far their toughest test yet, however, and they come into this game as big underdogs against the reigning European champions. Before taking a look at the two sides in a little more depth, let us first check out some confirmed team news...

STARTING XI: Courtois; Nacho, Ramos, Varane, Odriozola; Casemiro, Modric, Ceballos; Isco, Benzema, Asensio

SUBS: Navas, Bale, Mariano, Marcelo, Valverde, Lucas Vazquez, Llorente

Starting with a look at the home side, Julen Lopetegui has made a handful of changes on the back of the 3-0 win over Roma here a few days ago. Among those to come in is Marco Asensio, who takes over from the benched Gareth Bale in the forward line. Bale has been in good form this season, either scoring or assisting in eight of his last nine outings - the exception being Wales's defeat to Denmark - but he is being given a rest here.
One of the other more notable changes comes in goal, where Thibaut Courtois is restored to the starting lineup in place of Keylor Navas, who looks likely to be Madrid's go-to goalkeeper for the Copa del Rey and Champions League. Nacho and Alvaro Odriozola have also been brought into the side, taking over from Dani Carvajal and Marcelo, but there is no rest for Sergio Ramos an Raphael Varane in the middle of the back four.
It is a little surprising to see Casemiro remain in the starting XI, but Dani Ceballos has instead replaced Toni Kroos in the middle, with Luka Modric the other surviving member from the 3-0 win at home to Roma. Some had tipped Mariano Diaz to start this evening, having impressed from the bench on his second debut in midweek by netting arguably the best goal of the night to cap the scoring. The 25-year-old must instead settle for a place on the bench.

STARTING XI: Diego Lopez; Javi Lopez, Naldo, Hermoso, Vila; Perez, Marc Roca, Darder, Granero, Piatti; Iglesias

SUBS: Roberto, Victor, Duarte, Rosales, Garcia, Baptistao, Melendo

The Espanyol XI is a little surprising, to say the least. The visitors knew they were going to be without David Lopez today, as the defender picked up an injury last week that he was unable to shake off, but changes were otherwise expected to be kept to a minimum. Instead, having named an unchanged lineup for three games running, Rubi has changed things around for this trip to the Bernabeu.
Sergio Garcia netted the only goal of the game in last weekend's win over Levante, but he drops out of the side tonight as Pablo Piatti earns a reprieve. There is also no Leo Baptistao, with Rubi seemingly packing out his midfield with five players, including Hernan Perez and Piatti in the wide positions. If that is indeed the case, Borja Iglesias will lead the line on his own in the Spanish capital.
Rubi has favoured a 4-3-3 formation since arriving in the summer, but defence clearly takes priority over attack for this daunting trip to the home of the European champions. It could be a busy night at the back for Naldo and Mario Hermoso, while Diego Lopez will also been called upon regularly in goal. Lopez has kept two clean sheets so far this season - both of those coming at home, having shipped three to Celta Vigo and Alaves combined.
Gareth Bale drops down to the bench for this evening's clash, with Julen Lopetegui clearly having one eye on the upcoming games against Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. Marco Asensio profits from that decision, joining Isco and Karim Benzema in the frontline, while elsewhere there are three changes in defence and goal, and Dani Ceballos comes in for Toni Kroos in midfield.
Real Madrid head into this match sitting second in the La Liga standings and two points adrift of Barcelona, who are in action tomorrow night against Girona. Los Blancos have accumulated 10 points from the first 12 on offer - a good return for new boss Lopetegui, who has had to make do without star man Cristiano Ronaldo following his summer departure to Juventus. That, combined with no marquee signings, led to plenty of negativity around these parts.
Thibaut Courtois arrived for a fairly hefty fee from Chelsea, of course, but Los Blancos were expected to go all out to bring in a big-name player in attack, as is so often the case in a World Cup year. Still, there seems to be more of a balance to Los Blancos since Ronaldo departed and, while losing you undisputed star attack is never a good thing, Madrid have adapted better than many initially expected.
Real slipped up for the first time this season at Athletic Bilbao last weekend, with Isco netting in a 1-1 draw at San Mames. The mood, despite that draw, is overwhelmingly positive around these parts, which has not always been the case. Los Blancos may have dominated on the European stage over the past five years, but domestically their record is pretty terrible and needs improving.
The European champions have lifted the La Liga title once in the last six years and twice since 2008-09, most recently finishing third and 17 points adrift of runaway champions Barcelona. Los Blancos are already better off now than they were at this same stage 12 months ago, having dropped just two points so far, but there is still plenty of work to be done if Lopetegui is to bring the Spanish crown back to the Bernabeu.
Real have defeated Getafe and Leganes here already this season, scoring six goals and conceding one, while also cruising to a 4-1 victory away at Girona before their 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao. Los Blancos' third Champions League title in as many years last time out papered over what was an extremely disappointing domestic campaign, but the early signs this time around are pretty positive.
Lopetegui's men kicked off their latest Champions League campaign with a resounding 3-0 win over Roma in the week, producing an impressive all-round display to send out a message to the rest of the continent. Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo may no longer be around - at the Bernabeu, at least - but it is going to take some stopping Real over these next eight months. Just ask Roma, who learned that the hard way.
Bale maintained his impressive form with a goal in that 3-0 win here, while Isco netted a sublime free kick and Mariano Diaz also found the target on his second debut for the club. Diaz is expected to play a bigger part for Madrid this season after rejoining from Lyon in the summer, but for now he is having to bide his time among the back-ups. There is simply too much talent in that forward line, Ronaldo or not.
Madrid did lose 4-2 to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, though, tasting a first defeat in an international final since 2001 as Lopetegui's reign got off to a shaky start. Even accounting for that setback, however, there have been plenty of positives over the past five weeks or so and there is real hope that Los Blancos can sustain their title challenge this time around.
As touched upon a little earlier, Madrid travel to Sevilla in midweek and then return here for the visit of city rivals Atletico Madrid in a week's time - what a game that should be! It is worth mentioning at this point that the Rojiblancos have just defeated Getafe 2-0 away from home, through a David Soria own goal and a strike from Thomas Lemar, to move up to eight points for the season, putting them just behind Real ahead of this game in hand.
El Clasico is also just five weeks away, so there is plenty for Lopetegui to prepare for over the next couple of months. The ex-Spain boss has already left his mark on this side, with Real attempting 30 shots against Roma in midweek. In fact, 12 of their 14 players got a shot away - successful or otherwise - with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and centre-back Raphael Varane the only two failing to do so.
Real have also averaged 70% possession across their first four league games. The highest figure recorded so far under Lopetegui was the 78% against Getafe here on the opening weekend, compared to a high of 68% against Deportivo La Coruna in Zinedine Zidane's final season at the helm. The passing stats are also up, having registered 1,039 against Leganes, compared to last term's high of just over 800 at the Riazor.

Espanyol, now managed by Rubi, started the weekend occupying fourth place after collecting seven points from their opening four matches. Six other sides were level on points with them, including Real Sociedad thanks to their win at Huesca on Friday evening, so it is fair to say that the middle third of La Liga is extremely tight at this point. The Periquitos, expected to drift down the division gradually, will be holding out for a point tonight.
It has been a bright start to the campaign for the visitors, with their points tally bettered only by Barcelona and Real Madrid. They have won both home matches, scoring three goals and conceding none, while also earning a respectable point on their travels at Celta Vigo. The Periquitos did lose at Alaves recently, however, so it has not been all perfect thus far under Rubi.
Not that their only loss of the season dented their confidence, as they were 1-0 winners at home to Levante last weekend - Sergio Garcia netting the only goal of the game; his reward for which is a place on the bench tonight. Espanyol have only won back-to-back matches once since the end of 2016-17, however, so consistency is not exactly their forte. How they would love to end that particular run with victory here tonight!
DID YOU KNOW? Rubi's side have the second-highest shot count in the division thus far, registering 53 efforts at a rate of 13 per game, though that may take a hit tonight as they are set out in a more defensive shape. Three of their five goals - 60% - in the opening weeks of the season have come via set pieces, though, and they are also fourth in the table for fouls committed. In terms of passes attempted, they sit midway in 10th.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS! Espanyol have not won away at Real Madrid since 1996, most recently losing 2-0 here in back-to-back campaigns - Isco netting both of those goals in the last encounter here. Los Blancos have won 24 of their last 31 overall, meanwhile, but they lost 1-0 in Catalonia seven months ago through a late Gerard Moreno goal. That was the Periquitos' first win in this fixture since 2007.

Julen Lopetegui: "You just have to get used to our schedule; it's what happens when you play the Champions League. You have to make the best decisions and we will use our depth now more than ever. We will make our decisions game by game and paying attention to how everybody is playing. It's important to use the whole roster and it makes sense to do so now that we have a busy schedule. Every player will be important and will try to do everything we do during our training sessions."

Rubi: "We want to put up a fight and put on a contest. We're moving forward with enthusiasm, although if we don't accompany it with efficacy, they'll beat us in a second. Still, I wouldn't take a draw if it was offered to me now. I give certain priority to the result because it's important in the short term, but how we play is also important. We can look for new things to surprise them with, but we can't deviate too much from our game. In any case, we're on the right track to do great things, regardless of what happens at the Bernabeu, because the team are letting the fans enjoy themselves and aim high."

Lopetegui admits that his squad depth could prove key in the coming weeks, as Real attempt to balance a flurry of fixtures in multiple competitions. Opposite number Rubi insists that his side will "put up a fight" at the Bernabeu this evening, meanwhile, and he is adamant that Espanyol are not here just to take a point. His team selection seems to suggest something else entirely.

KICKOFF:  Real Madrid get us up and running at the Bernabeu. The home side have the chance to climb to the top of the division with all three points this evening, while Espanyol can level on points with their opponents should they come out on top.
Alvaro Odriozola, making his first appearance in the famous white strip tonight, gets forward down the right but is unable to get the ball into the middle. Diego Lopez kept his cool when put under pressure by Karim Benzema moments later.
CLOSE!  Los Blancos dominating possession in the opening stages of this match, as they so often do these days. Marco Asensio and Nacho exchange a few passes down the left, but the latter strayed into an offside position. Isco's shot from 13 yards was shinned wide.
That was a glorious chance for Isco to continue his goalscoring run, but he was unable to make the contact he wanted when picked out pretty much on the penalty spot. As predicted, Espanyol are going with a 4-5-1 tonight, not a 4-3-3.
YELLOW CARD!  An early caution for Nacho for what appeared to be dissent. The full-back disagreed with one of the referee's decisions and enter the book. A dominant showing from Los Blancos in the opening nine minutes, without making it tell.
A good defensive header from Sergio Ramos brings an end to Espanyol's first real foray forward. Alvaro Odriozola is getting forward at every opportunity down the right-hand side, on what is his first outing in a Real Madrid shirt.
The match has been a little more balanced over the last few minutes. Espanyol morph from a 4-5-1 to their more familiar 4-3-3 when they turn over possession, utilising the pace of the two attacking players brought into the side.
CHANCE!  Rubi will be happy with the way the match is panning out. The home side were dominant early on, but Espanyol have just created a big chance. The ball was worked to Pablo Piatti, who drilled it across goal from a slight angle.
One chance apiece at the Bernabeu, then, with Pablo Piatti and Isco both failing to find the target from good positions. Los Blancos have just won the game's first corner kick, which was taken by Luka Modric and gathered by Diego Lopez.
Alvaro Odriozola is proving to be one of the game's key men down the right, being given plenty of licence to get forward on his home bow. Sergio Ramos is encouraged to shoot and does exactly that, firing the ball right into the back of Karim Benzema.
Nearly a quarter of the match played and, while Madrid have been the side on top, they have not exactly done enough to warrant a lead. The mass changes made by Lopetegui may well backfire at this rate, though there is of course a long way to go.
Los Blancos are very patient in their build-up play, with more emphasis on retaining possession this term. They are also a little more reluctant to get the ball into the box from wide areas, likely because they no longer have aerial expert Ronaldo.
This is turning into a bit of a slog for Los Blancos. That was always going to be likely, with the visitors packing out their midfield and getting pretty much every player back behind the ball. Espanyol looking good value for a point at the moment.
Madrid starting to rack up the goal attempts, but they have still yet to test Diego Lopez on a single occasion. Espanyol have had one chance, which Pablo Piatti failed to make the most of. The match has become incredibly scrappy.
Piatti is all over Ceballos, leading to some words being exchanged. The match now has a slight edge to it, with Madrid starting to grow a little frustrated. A third of the game played and they have yet to truly get going.
Madrid's possession count has dropped down to 73%, as Espanyol have showed a little more attacking intent in the last 15 minutes or so. The hosts have not asserted themselves in front of goal, and if it stays this way Lopetegui will surely consider a change at the break.
CHANCE!  Madrid are forced into shooting from 30 yards out through Casemiro, with the ball taking a deflection on its way through. From the corner, centre-back Raphael Varane got his head to the ball but could not direct it towards goal.
Along with Isco's chance early in the match, that is just the second opportunity Real have created this evening. As strong as they looked in the opening 15 minutes, they have not done enough to trouble their opponents' backline.
SAVE!  The first save of the evening is made by Keylor Navas, who got down well to keep out Hernan Perez's shot at the end of a swift counter. Some great defending from Casemiro prevented Vila from finding the net from the rebound.
Could Perez have done better from that rare Espanyol chance? The attacker did well to shake off Sergio Ramos and, having to himself in the shooting position, should have at least looked to have found the bottom corner, rather than shooting close to Courtois.
With half time now less than five minutes away, it is arguably Espanyol who will feel more aggrieved not to be taking a lead into the break. They have seen far less of the ball, but they are starting to make the most of their counter-attacks.
Well after what felt like an eternity, the goal is given. Luka Modric's shot deflected into the path of Marco Asensio, who drilled it across Diego Lopez and into the bottom corner. The ex-Espanyol loanee was marginally onside, explaining the VAR delay.

Los Blancos have the goal they craved, right on the brink of half time. Will Los Blancos push on from that? It will feel like a sucker-punch for the visitors, who did not particularly look like conceding up until the moment the ball fell to Asensio's feet.
The first half ended in bizarre circumstances, with Casemiro and Dani Ceballos clattering into each other and both being left in need of some treatment. At the interval, Real Madrid have a one-goal advantage over Espanyol through Marco Asensio's strike.
The home side should have been ahead with five minutes played, only for Isco to shin the ball wide of goal when picked out in the middle. Visiting boss Rubi made three changes to his side, taking out Sergio Garcia and Leo Baptistao with an eye on padding out his midfield and focusing on the counter. One of the players brought in nearly took full advantage, as the ball was worked to Pablo Piatti and he fired it wide of the target.
Despite bossing possession in the first half, Real - two points better off than this stage last season heading into the match - were struggling to create any clear-cut openings in the first half. Raphael Varane headed wide from a rare chance, while up the other end Hernan Perez shot too close to Thibaut Courtois at the end of another Espanyol counter.
That near-miss for the Periquitos may have acted as a wake-up call for Madrid, as five minutes later they were in front through Marco Asensio's drilled finish. The Spanish attacker, previously on Espanyol's books during a 2015-16 loan spell, took Luka Modric's deflected shot in his path and made no mistake - VAR ruling that he was not standing in an offside position.

REAL MADRID SUBS: Navas, Bale, Mariano, Marcelo, Valverde, Lucas Vazquez, Llorente

ESPANYOL SUBS: Roberto, Victor, Duarte, Rosales, Garcia, Baptistao, Melendo

KICKOFF:  Espanyol, trailing to that Marco Asensio strike late on in the first half, gets us back up and running at the Santiago Bernabeu. Neither manager has made any changes at the midway point, so it is as you were for this second half.
Lopetegui will be desperate to net a second goal to put the opposition away. Espanyol looked as though they had a goal in them in the opening 45 minutes, so Rubi will still be confident of getting something out of this contest.
SAVE!  Isco darts to the byline but can only pick out Naldo with his attempted cross into the middle. Luka Modric is able to get a shot away from the next attack, but Diego Lopez was equal to it - good save from the visiting goalkeeper.
SHOT!  Los Blancos have raced out of the blocks at the start of the second half, with Isco curler a shot agonisingly wide of the target. Marco Asensio was then unable to get a shot away in the middle. Espanyol just having to hold on at the moment.
Be interesting to see what changes, if any, Lopetegui makes when we enter the final half an hour of the match. Gareth Bale will surely be given some minutes to keep him ticking over, while Mariano Diaz will be raring to go after his midweek strike.
ESPANYOL SUBS! Rubi is the first to blink, bringing on Leo Baptistao and Victor Sanchez in place of Pablo Piatti and Sergi Darder. Sanchez took just a minute to become the second player to see a yellow card.
The home side have completed dominated these opening 15 minutes of the second half, much like they did in the first. Espanyol are asking for trouble at the moment, as they are pegged right back and have no obvious out-ball.
REAL MADRID SUB! A cross into the Espanyol box is easily dealt with by Diego Lopez. Julen Lopetegui has made his first change of the evening, bringing on man of the moment Mariano Diaz and giving Karim Benzema a breather.
This second half is proving to be very similar to the first. Real are on top but have created just a couple of openings, meaning that their opponents are very much still in this game. Rubi has one more change available to make should he wish.
REAL MADRID SUB! Luka Modric pulls the trigger and the ball ricochets just out of Mariano Diaz's reach, unlike in the first half when Modric inadvertently set up Marco Asensio for what is the game's only goal so far. Lucas Vazquez is now on for Dani Ceballos.
OFF THE BAR!  Borja Iglesias pounces on a mistake from Sergio Ramos and is through on goal. The striker lifted the ball over Thibaut Courtois, but it hit the crossbar and was cleared away. That one-goal Madrid lead is looking incredible slender.
Madrid have allowed complacency to creep into their game and they were so nearly punished by Borja Iglesias. Lopetegui's men need to step things up and find a second, or else they could be made to pay.
The ball is pulled back to Mariano Diaz, whose scuffed shot is dealt with. A cross from the left then went all the way through, with Sergio Ramos closest to it, after Diego Lopez failed to deal with the danger.
ESPANYOL SUB! Here comes the third and final Espanyol sub, with Sergio Garcia replacing Hernan Perez. Rubi has made the three changes many would have expected, and now his side are well set up to give this a real go.
This has not been the liveliest of encounters at the Bernabeu, but it does at least remain competitive. Espanyol have had chances to get on the scoresheet tonight, including through that Borja Iglesias effort 10 minutes ago.
SAVE!  This is a brilliant save from Diego Lopez to keep out Sergio Ramos's header from point-blank range. The centre-back loves coming forward, even when his side are just one goal to the good, and he would have had his goal if not for a strong stop.
Twelve minutes left to play at the Bernabeu, plus presumably three or four minutes at the end, and this match still hangs in the balance. Ramos is taking so many risks at the moment - somebody needs to inform him that it is only 1-0!
YELLOW CARD!  Casemiro goes right through the back of Borja Iglesias to concede a free kick 22 yards from goal, while also giving away a free kick which came to nothing. Marcos Llorente, and not Gareth Bale, is on for Isco for the final 10 minutes.
Marco Asensio sends the ball into the sides after fashioning a shooting chance for himself. Madrid have not been at their free-flowing best this evening, but this will go down as three big points all the same.
SAVE!  Leo Baptistao is looking dangerous when in possession, and through his play Espanyol have another corner. It is floated towards Hermoso on the edge of the box, but he was unable to pick out a teammate with his flick on. Madrid counter and Llorente blasts right at Lopez.
Espanyol are continuing to probe away, giving Madrid's defenders one or two things to think about. This has been a decent showing from the Periquitos on the whole, even if they have seen substantially less of the ball.
Some surprisingly, are heading towards the exits at the Bernabeu. Los Blancos are about five minutes away from adding three more point to their tally, but La Liga has a habit of producing some late twists and turns.
Three minutes have been added on at the end of this match, so Espanyol are fast running out of time to snatch a leveller. Los Blancos have formed a solid wall of white shirts, making it near impossible for the visitors to find a way through.
Espanyol are probing away right until the end here. The visitors have managed to keep themselves in the match through some solid defending and good goalkeeper; now they want to find a late goal to land a serious blow to Madrid's title prospects.
Real Madrid beat Espanyol 1-0 at the Bernabeu through Marco Asensio's 41st-minute strike against his former side - the Spanish attacker drilling the ball out of Diego Lopez's reach after Luka Modric's shot inadvertently fell into his path. Los Blancos were unable to put the game out of their opponents' reach, and the Periquitos nearly levelled up in the second half when Borja Iglesias hit the crossbar.
That concludes Sports Mole's live text coverage of events from the Spanish capital. An on-the-whistle report can be found by clicking here, and be sure to join us at the same time tomorrow night for updates from Barcelona's meeting with Girona. See you then!
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