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Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol: Karim Benzema continue to shine for Los Blancos in the absence of Bale and Hazard

Karim Benzema was Real Madrid’s decisive player in Saturday’s lethargic 2-0 win over Espanyol – not that anyone was surprised.

It’s become a running theme this season, perhaps even a worrying one.

This latest Benzema-inspired victory moved Madrid three points clear at the top of La Liga, at least until Barcelona host Mallorca later in the day, but there is a mounting fear that Zinedine Zidane’s side are too dependent on their No.9.

The Blancos made it four wins on the bounce in La Liga with a 2-0 win over a dire Espanyol side but they remain dependent on their French forward

Karim Benzema was Real Madrid’s decisive player in Saturday’s lethargic 2-0 win over Espanyol – not that anyone was surprised.

It’s become a running theme this season, perhaps even a worrying one.

This latest Benzema-inspired victory moved Madrid three points clear at the top of La Liga, at least until Barcelona host Mallorca later in the day, but there is a mounting fear that Zinedine Zidane’s side are too dependent on their No.9.

Madrid again lacked spark against Espanyol. Raphael Varane put the hosts ahead eight minutes before the break at the Santiago Bernabeu – Benzema almost inevitably provided the assist – but it didn’t result in the hosts cutting loose.

They laboured and toiled in search of a second goal, until Benzema settled matters with 11 minutes remaining, and this match merely served to highlight the danger in always relying on their French forward to bail them out of jail.

Benzema had earlier missed two gilt-edged opportunites. Espanyol, 19th, were unable to capitalise on such unusual profligacy, but Madrid’s opponents in the coming weeks will not be so kind.

After a dead rubber in the Champions League against Club Brugge, Real face three stern challenges to test their title mettle.

They travel to Mestalla next weekend to face Valencia, then Camp Nou in midweek to play Barcelona in the rescheduled Clasico, and finally host Athletic Bilbao just before Christmas.

These matches will prove whether Zidane’s mean have really turned a corner because this lacklustre victory over Espanyol did little to dismiss the suggestion that Real’s run of four successive wins in La Liga is masking their deficiencies.

Madrid again lacked spark and flair, although given the injury-enforced absences of Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale, they at least had a valid excuse.

They were particularly poor in the opening half hour, though, struggling to create any clear chances, and one began to wonder if they were set for an afternoon of pure frustration.

Benzema, of course, had other ideas, creating some space in the area for compatriot Varane, who finished calmly.

The centre-back is a cool customer, at both ends of the pitch, and showed no nerves as he tucked the ball home with his weaker left foot to dispel some of the tension among the home fans.They had had little to cheer up until that point.

They had been hoping to witness a reinvigorated Vinicius Junior, who was making his first start since the 1-0 loss Mallorca on Oct. 19.

That was Madrid’s last defeat, making Vinicius even more eager impress. He failed to do so.

Despite his best efforts, there was little spark from the Brazilian who shone so brightly last season.With Rodrygo also struggling up front, it fell upon Benzema to lead Madrid to victory. Again.

In truth, he should have put the game to bed long before he swept home Fede Valverde’s cut-back, having allowed Diego Lopez to get the better of him in a one-on-one before then firing wide when well-placed in the middle of the box.

Of course, Benzema belatedly finished Espanyol off, with his Liga-leading 11th goal of the season, allowing everyone at the Bernabeu to breathe easy again.

Zidane cannot afford to relax, though, because what happens when stronger sides manage to shackle Benzema?

With Madrid now facing a rough run of Liga fixtures, we could be about to find out, and the answer might not be positive.

ajay
Sports freak at your door step

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