Monday, 5 March 2012

Real Madrid comfortably beat Espanyol

This article was initially meant for but wasn't put up today so I decided to put it up on here.

Another win for this strong Real Madrid side against Mauricio Pochettino's Espanyol.

With both teams set out in 4-2-3-1 shapes, the overall strategies and tactics were very clear. The away side were keen to play short passes and threaten in behind Madrid's centre backs, with Verdu also moving into good spaces between the lines. However the thing that was most obvious from them early on was their high defensive line to try and catch particularly Higuain offside. This worked well early on in the game, although they had a couple of problems with the secondary runners running in behind from onside positions.

Madrid, starting with Ozil on the right and Kaka playing off Higuain, looked to play high up the field, looking in behind and also positioning themselves high up to press, even from goal kicks when Espanyol tried to move it out from the back. When Espanyol played it out from goal kicks, the centre backs were generally split to allow the full backs to move up. Therefore, Madrid's wide men tried to place themselves between the centre backs and full backs from goal kicks, with their full backs willing to press high and the holding players able to come across the width of the field if the ball was played over the top to the Espanyol wingers or full backs so that Madrid didn't get outnumbered in the wide areas.

Their high pressing brought them their first goal. Espanyol made the mistake of trying to play too short in a very compact area which invited pressure. Raul Rodriguez lost the ball to Kaka with Madrid using high sectorial pressing, which meant Ozil was very close to that side and he had space to play it into Higuain who himself combined quickly with Ronaldo to put Madrid ahead.

Madrid's quick transitions and interchanging between the attacking band of three, behind Higuain, and the full backs caused problems for Espanyol defensively, with Ozil moving in from the right to take up difficult spaces between the lines and Kaka drifting to the left to allow Ronaldo to move into better central positions.

For the second goal, Madrid used good passing mechanisms to take up good positions high up the field. With Arbeloa on the ball, high up on the right, Romaric, one of the Espanyol holding players made a mistake in assuming the pass was going backwards so he moved up to press, which meant he wasn't blocking the passing line to Khedira.

Forlin, the other holding midfielder, therefore had to go out and pressure Khedira. This left space between the lines and with Ozil and Ronaldo inside, meant they had to be tracked by the centre backs.

The German managed to turn on the ball and with the passing line to Ronaldo not blocked, it allowed Khedira to play it into the feet of the Portuguese play who combined quickly with Ozil.

Khedira managed to take advantage of the space behind made by Ozil and Ronaldo with a vertical run and with the right back, Javi Lopez, failing to adjust his covering, the German midfielder found enough space to receive the first time pass from Ozil and to make it 2-0.

Espanyol created very little threat in the first half though Madrid's backline did look vulnerable especially Ricardo Carvalho. Meanwhile Ronaldo threatened in behind Lopez and created a chance for Higuain whose shot was saved by the goalkeeper.

In the second half, Madrid continued to dominate in attack, creating a third goal straight after the break. Marcelo played a quick one two with Ronaldo on the left to drag Lopez out of position and feed Kaka. Raul Rodriguez's slip made things worse for Espanyol and Kaka took on Hector Moreno and then played Higuain in behind with a perfectly weighted pass for the Argentinian's diagonal run and he finished it off with Didac, the left back, too slow to cover laterally.

Madrid continued to dominate in the second half, with Kaka often moving to the left in attacks so he could face goal when he received the ball and use his 1v1 ability against the full back while Ronaldo often moved inside from there. Kaka got a deserved goal after Madrid found space behind Espanyol yet again and Ronaldo's square pass to Higuain and Kaka's movement to create an overload on the far side with a 2v1 against the left back allowed him to finish well.

Kaka's positioning on the left then allowed him to get around the full back and play another lovely pass to Higuain in the middle who made it 5-0 with another good finish.

Madrid continued to threaten in behind with their power and pace a constant threat against Espanyol's centre backs. Espanyol themselves continued to create very little threat, a shot from Verdu after Khedira didn't pressure well enough outside the area, the only thing of note.

Morata came on for Higuain towards the end and the teenager showed promise with a good change of direction allowing him to get a shot away which was well saved from Casilla.

In the end,  Madrid eased to victory to cement their place at the top of La Liga, ten points ahead of Barcelona.

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