Real Madrid will take a slender lead into the second leg of their Copa Del Rey quarter-final after a 1-0 win at Espanyol.
Real Madrid came close to breaking the deadlock after 21 minutes when Ronaldo rattled a low drive off the inside of the post after being afforded plenty of time and space in the box.
But minutes later Benzema gave the visitors the lead, reacting quickest to Bale’s flick-on at the near post to guide his header into the net despite the best efforts of Kiko Casilla.
Bale tested Casilla from a free-kick, sending a dipping, swerving effort towards goal from 25 yards but the Espanyol keeper was equal to it, tipping over the bar.
Espanyol emerged for the second half rejuvenated and passed up several good opportunities, particularly from Sergio Garcia and Alex Fernandez to restore parity, giving Real the clean sheet, the away goal and the win.
21’ WOODWORK – Cristiano Ronaldo comes close to opening the scoring when he cuts inside the box and rattles a shot off the inside of the Espanyol post.
25’ GOAL – Karim Benzema gives Real Madrid the lead when he reacts quickest to Gareth Bale’s flick-on at the near post to head past Kiko Casilla, despite the keeper’s best efforts.
43’ BALE FREE-KICK – Cristiano Ronaldo hands over free-kick duty to Gareth Bale, who strikes a dipping, diving, swerving effort from 25 yards, forcing the keeper into a good save,
54’ CLOSE – The home side come extremely close to finding an equaliser when Sergio Garcia flashes a left-footed shot inches past the far post with Iker Casillas planted.
84’ SHOULD SCORE – Jhon Cordoba, who came on as a substitute, is threaded through one-on-one with Casillas but the Real Madrid keeper makes himself big and makes the block from the Espanyol striker.
90’ OFF THE LINE – Alex Fernandez arrives late in the box to meet a deep cross on the volley, with Marcelo digging the shot off the line. The ball ricochets off several players in the six-yard box before bouncing clear.
Real Madrid have now scored 14 goals and are yet to concede as they have won every game they’ve played in 2014 so far.
Iker Casillas set a new personal best, having now gone 592 minutes without conceding a goal.
Real Madrid have now chalked up 12 1-0 wins in the first leg of the Copa Del Rey.
Should Iker Casillas be given a chance in the league? Ever since Carlo Ancelotti came in as manager Iker Casillas has been the cup keeper, while Diego Lopez has been the number one in the league. But with Casillas in such great form is it about time he was given a chance in La Liga? Or would it be a risk to upset things as they are?
MAN OF THE MATCH
Sergio Garcia: It’s not often that a player on the losing end of Real Madrid gets man of the match, but Garcia gave the visitors something to think about all game and was desperately unlucky not to find the net.
Espanyol – Casilla 6, Rodriguez 6, Sidnei 4, Moreno 5, Capdevila 4, Sanchez 5, Abraham 5, Torje 6, Lanzarote 5, Pizzi 6, Garcia 8. Subs: Alex 6.
Real Madrid – Casillas 7, Arbeloa 6, Pepe 6, Ramos 6, Marcelo 6, Illarramendi 5, Modric 8, Bale 7, Di Maria 7, Ronaldo 6, Benzema 8. Subs: Alonso 5.