For the second time this month Real Madrid defeated Espanyol 1-0. This time it was Karim Benzema's long strike that made the difference as Los Blancos will head home with an aggregate lead in their two-leg Copa del Rey quarterfinal matchup.
Madrid, as seems the norm for them under Carlo Ancelotti, started slow and were pressed a bit by Espanyol in the opening 20 minutes. The best chance for Periquitos came in the 18th minute when a cut back ball into the center of the Madrid 18-yard-box went right to the foot of Pizzi. The midfielder's effort was off target though, sailing well over the crossbar and blowing an excellent chance to take an early lead.
As often happens though, Madrid will turn on the creative and create a chance out of nowhere. Luka Modrić found Cristiano Ronaldo on the edge of the area in the 21st minute, allowing the Portuguese striker to turn around Cristian Gómez and fire a low shot that glanced off the fingers of Kiko Casilla and off the post.
Minutes later Madrid would not miss.
Gareth Bale's glancing header from a Álvaro Arebeloa cross went right into the path of Karim Benzema who directed a header of his own past the Espanyol keeper, putting Madrid ahead 1-0.
Bale just missed a goal of his own in the 44th minute after Madrid were awarded a free kick on the edge of the Espanyol box. Bale's shot got over the wall but was parried away by Casilla with an excellent two-handed save.
Espanyol nearly got the equalizer in the 54th minute when Sergio García cribbed by both Pepe and Sergio Ramos before sending a low shot towards goal. Iker Casillas was up to the task though and got down quickly, diverting the ball just wide of the far post to preserve the Madrid lead.
In the end Espanyol could not find an equalizer and will have to overcome a 1-0 deficit in the second leg next week.
Espanyol: Casilla, Raúl, Sidnei, Moreno, Capdevila, Abraham, Sánchez, Torje (Córdoba 76'), Pizzi (Stuani 89'), Lanzarote (Fernandez 46'), Sergio García
Real Madrid: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Illarramendi, Modric, Di María (Alonso 72'), Bale (Jesé 90'), Ronaldo, Benzema (Isco 77')
Goals: Benzema (26')