Real's Zidane hails Isco: 'He plays as you play in the street, and I like that'

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed "street player" Isco after the playmaker's double strike in Sunday evening's 2-0 La Liga win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu.

After Isco himself and Sergio Ramos had missed early chances to break the deadlock, the former Malaga man made it 1-0 on 29 minutes by sliding the ball home from Cristiano Ronaldo's lovely assist. Madrid kept making and missing chances, and had a let-off at the other end when Gerard Moreno hit the post just before half-time following a Casemiro mistake.

Espanyol improved after the break, and Keylor Navas twice looked sharp as the visitors pressed for an equaliser, before Isco secured Madrid's first home La Liga win of 2017-18 with 20 minutes remaining by guiding the ball calmly into net from Marco Asensio's cross.

The Los Blancos coach told his postgame news conference that Isco was playing with full confidence at the moment, and able to express himself fully out on the pitch.

"It is just the confidence that Isco has now," Zidane said. "He knows he is an important player with Real Madrid. He plays as you play in the street, and I like that. He does not get worried if things don't come off.

"Hopefully he stays on this path, lately he is really enjoying himself on the pitch, with his teammates. I am happy that we see an Isco getting better all the time."

Following draws with Levante and Valencia and a 1-0 defeat to Real Betis, Madrid finally got three points in front of their own fans. Zidane said the low-key second-half performance, including Ronaldo moving to 22 shots in La Liga without scoring this season, was understandable given the players' heavy recent schedule.

"We started the game very well and had patience and made chances," he said. "It could have been more than 1-0 at half-time. The second half was a bit more difficult. We dipped physically, after seven games [in 22 days] lately. That is normal. The important thing today was to get the three points after the three games we have had here at the Bernabeu."

Gareth Bale was not involved in the game having picked up a calf muscle issue during Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League group win at Borussia Dortmund. Zidane said the Wales winger would be allowed to join up with his national team although he would prefer him not to play in next week's World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.

"Gareth will go with his national team," the Frenchman said. "He has not played [today], but as he still has a bit of an issue [and] we would prefer him not to play [for Wales]. The other day he felt a strain in his hamstring. It is not a [serious] injury. I speak with the player, and also with the medical staff [before deciding whether to play him]."

Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal is ruled out of Spain's qualifiers next week due to a virus in the membrane encasing his heart, which Zidane suggested was not as serious an issue as it sounds.

"Dani will not go with the national team this week," he said. "We will see how he recovers. It is not anything dangerous, but he will remain here with us."