A late strike from Marco Asensio put a halt to Real Madrid’s three-match winless streak and earned Los Blancos a 1-0 win against Leganes in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final on Thursday night at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque in Leganes.
Since winning the Club World Cup in December, Los Blancos had won just once in five matches and it looked like it was going to be six before Asensio’s superb finish off a Theo cross.
However, considering their recent home form – two defeats and one draw in all competitions, embattled manager Zinedine Zidane’s squad will still have much work to do in next week’s return leg in the Bernabeu. Until his strike, Asensio and fellow forward Borja Mayoral did little in the affair, and did not get much help either from midfielder Dani Ceballos against a solid Leganes defence.
The match took on the predictably early shape of Real possessing while Leganes sat back and defended in their own half, waiting to strike on the counter. Zidane had to go to his bench a lot sooner than expected, as centre-back Jesus Vallejo slumped to the turf with what looked to be a hamstring and was replaced by Nacho.
An absolute howler from defender Ruben Perez gifted Mateo Kovacic a golden opportunity to break the deadlock, only for the Croatia international to fire wide when he was in all alone with Leganes goalkeeper Champagne.
Through 60 minutes the Real attack had done absolutely nothing to trouble Champagne in the Leganes goal, outside of Kovacic’s atrocious finish. Meanwhile, the Leganes belief and confidence grew with every minute as the noise volume grew louder inside Butarque.
Real were actually closer to scoring in their own goal, as Marco Llorente’s attempted headed clearance went awry and struck Kiko Casilla’s crossbar. It was at that moment that Zidane made his first major change, replacing the ineffective Dani Ceballos with Luka Modric.
Modric’s impact was felt quickly, and his slick pass into Lucas Vazquez almost led to a goal for the Galician attacker, but Champagne did well to save. Zidane then made his final switch of the evening, as Llorente made way for Isco.
Leganes were still fancying a victory though, and when Beauveu connected on Amrabat’s floated cross from the left a goal seemed likely, but Casilla reacted well and made the save.
Just when it looked like things would end in a scoreless draw, Asensio struck to give Real the 1-0 win. Isco fed Theo down the left flank, and the cross in from the defender was inch-perfect for Asensio to latch onto and volley in past Champagne at the near post.
Real will now look to continue their winning ways on Sunday at Deportivo.