|Cristiano was not enough to beat the Espanyol.|
Real Madrid played their last match of 2012 in the Santiago Bernabtu Stadium. They came to the match having completed a one year unbeaten run in the league in front of their home crowd and with the intention of getting a third straight victory in the championship in the month of December. Coentrao, recovered from his illness, returned to the starting eleven, whilst Benzema was left out following the knock that he received last Wednesday in Balaidos. Cristiano Ronaldo played as the highest player and the Portuguese player was the first to shoot on goal. His shot from the edge of the area on three minutes went wide.
It was the first warning. The second was to come a minute later. Cristiano Ronaldo passed to Modric, who controlled the ball with his chest and shot on the volley. Within just five minutes the Whites had already had two chances. The match was dominated by the home side. Real Madrid dictated the match and patiently built up plays against a team that defended very compact close to their area hoping to get through the tricky moments and to try and create chances on the break. The Whites remained focused on putting themselves ahead on the scoreboard and were close to doing so three minutes before the half hour mark. Modric shot from the edge of the box but, having beaten Kiko Casilla, his shot hit the post.
Real Madrid kept applying pressure and when it looked likely that they goal would soon arrive Espanyol went ahead with their first shot on goal. Verdu with the assist and Sergio Garcia, who beat the Whites’ centre back pairing for pace, beat Casillas in the 31st minute. A comeback was needed for the second consecutive league match, but Real Madrid already showed against Valladolid that they are not afraid of the situation. Nine minutes later they came close to levelling the contest with a play that began with a masterful assist from Özil which Cristiano Ronaldo latched on to, but he could not beat the goalkeeper in a one-on-one. Everything was pointing towards Real Madrid going in at halftime behind on the scoreboard, but the ambition of Cristiano Ronaldo is the best weapon to overcome any obstacle. A threaded cross from Khedira and the Portuguese appeared at the back post and finished with the instep of his right foot. Phenomenal resourcefulness to level the match in first half stoppage time at what was a psychologically great time to score.
Mourinho, aware of the overwhelming dominance of possession that his team had, tried to stretch the play and chose to bring on Di Maria for Modric. The Argentine’s entrance was a successful for the Portuguese and his vertical play was key to his team being able to get in front on the scoreboard. They only took three minutes to do so. Cristiano Ronaldo controlled the ball just inside the area and saw Coentrão pushing forward and played the ball to his compatriot, who controlled with the left and surprised Casilla with a right-footed shot. 2-1 and the Portuguese’s first Real Madrid goal.
The home team were not satisfied and they increased their speed in attacking situations. In the first ten minutes of the second half had they had not only scored but had also created two other good chances to beat the visitors’ goalkeeper. Arbeloa had the first after cut back from Callejon, which held up a lot. The Whites’ right back’s shot had was met by an excellent reaction save from Casilla in the 50th. Four minutes later the academy player showed some more of his best. A great Di Maria shot from the edge of the box was met by a spectacular full stretch save by the Espanyol goalkeeper, who tipped the ball against the crossbar.
The Catalan side looked to be beaten and they weren’t pushing their lines forward to try to turn the situation around and they could only retreat to try to relieve the pressure. The chances followed and Özil, with a shot across the goal in the 72nd minute, could not find the target. Morata, who had replaced Callejon a minute earlier, was on target with his first touch of the ball. An assist from Özil leading to the Whites’ academy players’ header which was blocked by Héctor Moreno on the goal line. The crowd were enjoying a good second half and if the Whites hadn’t scored more goals it was due to the great efforts of Casilla. Luck was cruel for Real Madrid and with just two minutes remaining of the match Albín equalised following a series of ricochets. An unfair draw for the Whites and more than Espanyol deserved.
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Goals: 0-1, m.30: Sergio Garcia. 1-1, m.45: Cristiano Ronaldo. 2-1, m.48: Coentrao. 2-2, m.88: Albin.