Copa del Rey: Benzema gives Real Madrid one-goal lead after leg one at Espanyol

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For the second time in 10 days, Real Madrid is leaving Estadi Cornellà-El Prat with a  1-0 win, but whereas their victory on Jan. 10 left questions doubt about the team’s new setup, a controlling performance on the back of a five-goal league win carries a different connotation. Instead of feeding doubts, today’s first leg win in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals augurs well for next week’s reverse, the Merengues having taken a confident step toward the competition’s final four.

That confidence was evident in the 15th minute when Gareth Bale’s flick of an Álvaro Arbeloa cross found Karim Benzema at the far post, the French international giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. It was also apparent in the second half when lax play gave Javier Aguierre’s side two chances to craft late equalizers. For most of the night, however, that confidence manifest in a tacit control of play, with El Real out-passing Espanyol 588-420 while maintaining 58 percent of possession.

It also led to seven shots on target, though Kiko Casilla didn’t have to give a remarkable effort to keep six of them out. Seemingly content with their one-goal lead, Real Madrid took the foot off the gas in the second half (if they ever had it on), recording only eight of their 22 shots after intermission. Over the final half hour, particularly after Xabi Alonso replaced Ángel Di María, los Blancos appeared intent on preserving a 1-0 lead for next week’s second leg.

In that way, today’s match had a slightly different feel from the one two Sundays ago. Then, as Carlo Ancelotti switched his side to a 4-3-3, the team had yet to prove their tweaks would lead to a more dominant product on the field. Failing to put more than one goal past Espanyol, Real Madrid looked like the decent but still lacking product they’d been throughout the fall.

By Tuesday, coming off a 5-0 win at Real Betis on Saturday, some of those questions have been answered. With five different goal scorers in Seville, Real Madrid showed the potential for a more diverse, potentially more potent attack. Being able to consistently produce such performances remains a doubt, but in controlling today’s match in Catalonia, Real Madrid showed their new approach may yet plug some of their holes.

In the context of a two-leg tie, a measured, controlling performance at Espanyol could be seen as an extension of this weekend’s dominance, even if the scoreboard shows a more modest result.

Aguero injury update; Pellegrini pleased as City go top

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Relax Manchester City fans, Sergio Aguero is okay. At least, that’s how it seems right now.

Aguero, 27, started up top in City’s 3-1 win over Southampton on Saturday as the Citizens momentarily went top of the Premier League ahead of the late game between Leicester City and Manchester United.

[ VIDEO: Vardy sets PL record ]

Even though Aguero didn’t get on the scoresheet, his movement caused Saints plenty of problems and despite Shane Long halving the deficit following Kevin De Bruyne and Fabian Delph‘s first half goals, City rallied and won 3-1 thanks to a late Aleksandar Kolarov strike.

All that aside, Aguero limped off injured in the second half and with a League Cup quarterfinal and big games in the PL and UEFA Champions League coming up, fears over the Argentine’s fitness once again surfaced.

Speaking to the media after the game Pellegrini revealed that Aguero should be fine.

“Kun [Aguero] came off as a precaution. I spoke with him before the game and we said he would play 65 minutes,” Pellegrini said. “He has a kick in his heel, but nothing important. I was very pleased with the team’s reaction. It was important to get three points against a team who were unbeaten away. We were a little nervous until the third goal, but I’m happy with the performance and the result.”

Aguero missed six weeks of action from October to November after a hamstring injury when playing for Argentina and whenever he’s been out of the team, especially over the past 12 months, City have missed him desperately. In that regard it is understandable that Pellegrini took no chances when Aguero went done with a slight injury against Southampton.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to Vardy ]

Pellegrini also lamented referee Roger East for a few peculiar decisions, as both his side and Saints could’ve had penalty kicks in either half for handball incidents in the box. With City facing Hull City in the League Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, Pellegrini’s players must now recover as he hinted at the importance of making the final four of the competition he won during his first season in charge.

Social media reacts to Jamie Vardy’s Premier League history-making goal

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 28:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Manchester United at The King Power Stadium on November 28, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
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The Internet exploded at around 12:50 p.m. ET on Saturday after Jamie Vardy — yes, Jamie Vardy — broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record for most consecutive games with a goal.

[ WATCH: The goal | The game — Leicester City vs. Manchester United ]

Yes, an Englishman is back atop the charts. An Englishman who was playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels, Halifax Town and Fleetwood Town before heading to Leicester.

He’s perhaps the reminder, as Rio Ferdinand Tweeted below, that the most unlikely of scenarios is still not impossible.

Well done @vardy7! You're number one now and you deserved it. #11inarow.

A photo posted by Ruud van Nistelrooy (@rvnistelrooy) on

VIDEO: Vardy sets Premier League record, scores in 11-straight games

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He did it. He actually did it.

Jamie Vardy made Premier League history on Saturday, scoring for the 11th consecutive game to become the first player in history to achieve that magnificent feat.

[ MORE: Twitter reacts to Vardy ]

Tied with Manchester United legend Ruud van Nistelrooy heading into Leicester’s clash against United on Saturday, it took Vardy just 24 minutes to set the new record as Christian Fuchs played a delicate ball in-behind United’s defense and Vardy did the rest.

[ MORE: Can Vardy, Leicester achieve unthinkable? ]

Watch the video below to see the King Power Stadium erupt as a truly memorable moment arrived.

Now, the next record for Vardy to break is from the 1931-32 English top-flight season, before the PL was formed. Sheffield United’s Jimmy Dunne scored in 12-straight games way back then.

Anyway, congratulations Mr. Vardy for making PL history.

WATCH: Insane finish as Everton, Bournemouth trade stoppage time goals

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This was an all-timer.

Bournemouth came back from a 2-0 halftime deficit only to watch Ross Barkley hand Everton a one-goal lead with a score in the final minute of stoppage time.

[ MATCH RECAP: Bournemouth 3-3 Everton ]

But after fans were cleared from the field, Junior Stanislas provided the dramatic answer for Bournemouth to force a 3-3 draw at Dean Court.