Madrid cut La Liga gap on Barca with Espanyol comeback

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Vinicius Junior scored a fine solo goal as Real Madrid came from behind to beat Espanyol 3-1 and cut Barcelona’s lead to six points at the top of La Liga on Saturday.

Joselu had sent the visitors ahead early on at the Santiago Bernabeu but Vinicius produced a surging run and lethal finish to pull the champions level.

Eder Militao’s header completed the turnaround and Madrid could have added more goals in the second half, with Rodrygo hitting the crossbar from a free-kick.

Eventually Marco Asensio tucked away the third in stoppage time after a fine run and pass from defender Nacho Fernandez.

Barcelona visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday to try and restore their advantage, ahead of El Clasico at Camp Nou next weekend.

“They caught us out a bit with their goal, but the game gives us confidence to face a complicated week,”

“When space opens out, we’re a team that has very fast players up front (to capitalise).”

Said Nacho, ahead of Madrid’s clashes with Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday and Barcelona on Sunday.

After failing to score from open play in their last three matches across all competitions, Madrid’s three well-taken goals were a confidence boost.

With Karim Benzema out with an ankle issue, although poised to return for the Champions League last 16 second leg clash with Liverpool, Carlo Ancelotti selected Rodrygo up front in his place.

The coach also opted to play Eduardo Camavinga out of position at left-back again and the French midfielder’s mistake helped the visitors move ahead after eight minutes.

Camavinga misjudged a long ball which he allowed to reach Ruben Sanchez, who crossed for striker Joselu to smash into the top corner.

It was the forward’s 12th goal of the season — only Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski has scored more in La Liga, with 15.

Stirred by Espanyol’s goal, Madrid quickly improved in the early afternoon spring sun, and Vinicius fired them level with a superb solo effort of his own.

The Brazilian winger cut inside from the left and drove home to net his 19th goal of the season across all competitions.

Comeback complete

Militao headed the champions in front before the break, meeting a sumptuous Aurelien Tchouameni cross, which the midfielder served up with the outside of his boot.

Vinicius blasted over as Madrid looked to press home their advantage and the Brazilian was also knocked to the floor off the ball by Oscar Gil, who was booked.

The forward has been targeted by opposition defenders in recent months and Vinicius appeared winded after Gil’s bodycheck.

Vinicius had been booked in the first half for a foul himself, his eighth yellow card of the season.

“With the referee we spoke about Vinicius’ card,”

“Many of these (bookings) have been for protesting, but today, I want to highlight that for me, his attitude was exemplary.

“He didn’t say anything and he played very well. He has to continue like this, they have given him too many yellows for the kicks that he receives.”

Ancelotti said.

Rodrygo came closest to extending Madrid’s lead when he curled a free-kick over the wall but it struck the crossbar.

Vinicius was warmly applauded by Madrid fans as he was taken off late on, with Ancelotti giving another brief cameo to young forward Alvaro Rodriguez.

However it was another substitute, Asensio, who wrapped up the win with a cool finish after Nacho’s uncharacteristic dribble forward into attack.

Defeat leaves Espanyol provisionally 14th, two points above the relegation zone.

“Our gameplan is what we did today, to go out there, up for it, don’t let the opponent play,”

“We saw Real Madrid shooting from range, we made it hard for them.

“From this game we must take away the great effort we made … this is the path we have to follow.”

Joselu told Movistar.

Source: AFP

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