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Real Madrid 3 Espanyol 1

Ronaldo injured in warm ups
Ronaldo injured in warm ups
Photo by Adam Pretty/Bongarts/Getty Images

Saturday, Spanish Football's Real Madrid beat visiting RCD Espanyol 3-1, in the teams' last La Liga 2013-14 match, at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The game was meaningless to both sides as Real, unable to catch up to Barcelona or Atletico Madrid, were focused on the upcoming Champions League, and Espanyol, without a chance to compete for an upper slot on the table but with a comfortable mathematical cushion away from relegation, had little to play for themselves.

The game started fast but soon settled into a rhythm that saw neither side take advantage in the first half despite a few good opportunities on both sides.

But the match was so overwhelmed by what happened before the whistle, and would happen elsewhere and at another time, that the actual scoring did not begin until the 64th minute. In everyone's mind was Cristiano Ronaldo's injury, next week's Champions League, and what was happening on the eastern coast of the Iberian nation.

Ronaldo, listed as a starter today, was scrapped after warm ups putting in doubt his participation in next week's European final and calling into question how his recovery is being managed with the World Cup also around the corner. Similarly, despite starting a number of players that were better off not playing, given that through injury and suspension the Merengues would be shorthanded next week, Real coach, Carlo Ancelotti, put out a strong line-up.

The thought, it would seem, was to give the likes of Sami Khedira some playing time as Xabi Alonso was suspended for the latter final, and to keep Gareth Bale, Iker Casillas, Karim Benzema and Angel di Maria sharp. The strategy worked in that no further serious injuries were incurred and the players who needed time got it.

The opening goal, at the 64th minute, was by Bale, on a counter and assisted by Benzema. The next three occurred in a six minute span. Alvaro Morata, at the 86th and 91st, bracketed Espanyol's sole counter at the 90th, by Pizzi who had come in as a substitute at the 69th minute.

The story of the game, was not the game but the extent of Ronaldo's injury and by the end of the match Madrid was downplaying the issue saying it was a precautionary choice to keep him out. The Portuguese superstar, though, seemed unhappy about the situation. At 31 goals for the season and winner of the La Liga Pichichi for the top scorer, Ronaldo will now have to share the Golden Shoe for Europe's top scorer with the Premier League's Luis Suarez.

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