Isco's brace vs. Espanyol earns Madrid first home win in La Liga this season
Real Madrid beat Espanyol 2-0 on Sunday to secure their first home win of the season in La Liga. Cristiano Ronaldo set up Isco to open the scoring with a neat finish after 30 minutes. Espanyol wasted clear chances to equalise in the second half as Los Blancos loosened their grip on the game, but Isco rounded off an incisive counterattack to score his second with 20 minutes remaining. Madrid move up to fifth place in the Liga table, seven points behind pace-setters Barcelona.
At the fourth time of asking, Real Madrid have finally treated the Bernabeu crowd to a home victory in La Liga. That could be spun as a positive or a negative, but with the leaves turning an autumnal shade of brown in Madrid's Retiro Park, it was important for Zinedine Zidane's side to end that barren spell on home turf.
Achraf Hakimi showed that he provides capable backup to Dani Carvajal, at least in matches in which Madrid will have the majority of possession. The 18-year-old was comfortable on the ball and competent in defence.
Real Madrid continue to falter in front of goal, albeit less glaringly than in recent home games. Zidane's side had 22 shots on goal, and an expected goal rating of 3.04, yet converted that into only two goals.
The home side showed a concerning drop in intensity immediately after half-time. Espanyol manager Quique Sanchez Flores deserves a sizeable chunk of credit for introducing Sergio Garcia on the left and encouraging his players to hassle Madrid in advanced areas. Yet Madrid's start to the second period hinted toward a touch of complacency.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- It is significant that the Real Madrid players left the pitch at half-time to a smattering of whistles. Zidane secured a routine win, but his side are yet to truly find their attacking groove.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 6 -- Should have brought along the Sunday crossword to complete during the first half, such was his lack of involvement. Called in to action more after the break and was alert to come off his line and act as a sweeper when necessary.
DF Achraf Hakimi, 7 -- The 18-year-old debutante had not been born when Espanyol last won at the Bernabeu in 1996, and he contributed to maintaining that streak on his debut. Slotted in to the attack seamlessly and dealt fairly well with an increased defensive workload in the second half as Espanyol targeted his flank.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- The 24-year-old's level of consistency dictates that his match rating is almost copy-and-pasteable from week to week. Assured, commanding and used his athleticism to cover across the defensive line when the visitors forayed forward on the break.
DF Sergio Ramos, 5 -- An uncharacteristically jittery display from the captain. He came perilously close to gifting Espanyol a goal after 70 minutes as he tried, and failed, to dribble out from the back.
DF Nacho, 7 -- The makeshift left-back is settling in to his new position. His heat map showed a generous dollop of red midway through the opposition half, which is indicative of his ability to offer an attacking outlet. Also made more tackles (6) and interceptions (3) than any other Madrid player.
MF Casemiro, 6 -- A steady performance from the midfield patrol. However, the Pope remains Catholic, and Casemiro received a booking in the second half. His crime was a nasty, scissor-movement tackle, which may have elicited a more serious punishment from a different referee.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- The Croatia international was industrious without being at his creative best.
MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Set the tempo well in the first half but lost control of the midfield after the break. He was the first Madrid player to be substituted after 69 minutes, as Zidane sought to inject more energy into his team's play.
MF Isco, 9 -- Missed a one-on-one after just 25 seconds but finished neatly for his two goals. Could have been the first central midfielder to score a hat trick for Real Madrid since Rafael van der Vaart in 2008. Left the pitch to a standing ovation.
FW Marco Asensio, 8 -- Good awareness to cut the ball back for Isco's second and almost set him up for a hat trick with a delightful chip. A hard-working display on his first match at the Bernabeu since signing a long-term contract, as he did the running for strike-partner Ronaldo.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 6 -- Provided a tidy assist for the first goal but generally cut a frustrated figure. The Portuguese had fewer touches (41) than any other outfield player who started the match.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 6 -- Replaced Kroos after 69 minutes. Perhaps had he eaten a few more greens as a youngster, he would have been able to stretch and make better contact with Ronaldo's inviting cross toward the end.
MF Dani Ceballos, N/R -- Showed some neat touches after replacing Modric with 10 minutes remaining.
FW Borja Mayoral, N/R -- Replaced Isco in stoppage time to allow the Bernabeu to give the man from Malaga a standing ovation.
Matt McGinn is ESPN FC's Real Madrid blogger. Twitter: @McGinn93