In a tight, highly contested match, La Liga leaders Real Madrid barely defeated bottom of the table Espanyol 1-0 via a Casemiro 45-minute goal. The Brazilian midfielder slid to push the ball home from a brilliant Karim Benzema back-heel pass that miraculously went between the legs of his marker, slightly ricocheted beyond the block of Casemiro’s marker and the sprawling goalkeeper, and allowed the slide-push into an empty goal.
The away result put Real at 71 points to Barcelona’s 69 with six games to go in the domestic competition. With the win, Madrid are five wins and a tie from winning the La Liga title.
The midfielder is growing in influence as a defensive force that can deliver some offensive punch when needed. Casemiro is usually the first line of defense for Real, but he has been given the freedom to roam by coach Zinedine Zidane, and the Brazilian has been both reveling in and delivering on his part-time offensive duties.
The 28-year-old Casemiro is at the peak of his prowess and aiming to add a few more trophies to his haul of one Copa America, four UEFA Champions League trophies, one each La Liga and Copa del Rey trophies, two Spanish Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups. With at least two domestic trophies to compete for this year and each of the next two years, a Copa America coming up next year and a World Cup the year after Casemiro will be in pursuit of greater glory while at his peak and still under contract (through June 30, 2023) to Madrid.
The 32nd Round began on Friday when Sevilla was held at home to a 1-1 draw by Real Valladolid. On Saturday, Athletic Bilbao defeated visiting Mallorca 3-1 while hosts Osasuna beat Leganes 2-1, Celta Vigo completed an exciting home draw with a last gasp Iago Aspas free-kick to draw 2-2 with Barcelona, and Alaves lost 1-2 away to Atletico Madrid.
On Sunday, aside from Casemiro’s heroics, Eibar won 2-1 away to Granada, Villarreal took all three points at home with a 2-0 win over Valencia and Levante beat visiting Real Betis 4-2.
Tomorrow’s clash between second-place Barcelona and visiting third-place Atletico Madrid might signal the tenor of the remaining La Liga competition.