Cornellà and their part-time electrician, part-time striker Oscar Muñoz had a moment they’ll never forget, but Real Madrid secured a 4-1 win against the minnows from Catalonia to make the second leg of their Copa del Rey last-32 tie at the Bernanbeu the formality many, if not all, expected.
Muñoz lashed home a fine strike to cancel out Raphael Varane’s early header to temporarily stun the visiting European champions and send the fans of the side from Spain’s Segunda Division B jubilant. But Varane soon headed in another corner before Javier Hernández and substitute Marcelo struck to seal the tie in the second half.
Playing at effectively the third tier of Spain’s pyramid for the first time this season, Cornellà’s 1,500 capacity home ground was deemed inadequate to house a match of this magnitude, so fans packed instead into Espanyol’s Power8 Stadium. Just three days after Madrid’s superb Clasico win over Barcelona, coach Carlo Ancelotti made a host of alterations to his starting lineup, with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos getting the night off. Despite the seven changes in total, Madrid struggled to get going in the early stages, before the clear gulf in quality and fitness told decisively in the second half.
What was evident from early on was that Cornellà were Ill-equipped to deal with set-pieces sent into the box. In the 10th minute, shortly after Sami Khedira wasted a fine chance to mark his first start of the season with a headed goal, Varane took full advantage. The young French defender appeared a man against boys as he rose high from James Rodriguez’s delivery in the center of the six-yard box and headed with authority into the corner of the net.
A straightforward night then looked in store. It would eventually turn out to be that way, but not before the hosts left their indelible mark on the tie. There were certainly occasions during the 90 minutes when the lowly status of Cornellà was all too clear out on the pitch, but the only thing amateurish as they stunningly got back on level terms just 10 minutes after going behind was Real Madrid’s defending. A long ball forward headed on from the right caught Varane indecisive, and when Josele helped it past him Muñoz turned an equally hapless Alvaro Arbeloa before smashing a shot past Keylor Navas and into the roof of the net.
For all the unsurprising possession Madrid were enjoying, they continued to lack a real spark or energy to open up their determined opponents. They could, though, still count upon set-pieces to pay dividends. This time the corner was delivered from the left by Isco and, whereas Cornellà’s goalkeeper perhaps should have come to claim the ball on the first goal, this time Segovia did come rushing out but got nowhere near the ball to allow Varane to head in his second goal at the near post.
Opportunities would come more frequently Real Madrid’s way in the second half. With eight minutes of the period elapsed, Hernández, making just his second start for the club he joined on loan from Manchester United in the summer, notched his fourth goal in a Los Blancos jersey thanks to a lesson in persistence. The Mexico striker appeared to have let the chance slip when he failed to take Isco’s fine through ball into his stride, but, despite having to later pick himself off the ground, he regained possession and manufactured space for a low shot into the net from just outside the penalty area.
He so nearly had a second when he was inches away from turning in a cross at the back post. While Ancelotti was adamant beforehand that his side wouldn’t take their opponents lightly, certainly there appeared to be some evidence of that when Marcelo tried an outlandish back-heel when through on goal and was compelled to apologize to his teammates when he turned around to see it saved.
But the Brazilian, whose direct running from the flank added much to Madrid’s impetus following his introduction on the hour mark, was to get his goal 15 minutes from the end. Isco, adding yet another impressive display to his recent run of them in place of the injured Gareth Bale, ran through and struck a low effort that Segovia dived to repel only to send the ball into the path of Marcelo who eagerly fired into the unguarded net.