Real Madrid return to winning ways


Real Madrid put a forgettable week behind them as they got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Espanyol at the Bernabeu. Carlo Ancelotti's men were beaten by Valencia last Sunday and city rivals Atletico in the Copa Del Rey in midweek, but goals from James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Nacho Fernandez ensured they avoided a hat-trick of defeats. It was, though, a third loss in seven days for Espanyol, who could not capitalise despite the hosts having Fabio Coentrao sent off shortly after half-time. Before their defeat to Valencia, Real had won their last 22 matches and welcomed back Cristiano Ronaldo to their line-up after the talismanic Portuguese sat out the loss to Atletico. Espanyol started well enough, with efforts from Felipe Caicedo and Sergio Garcia, but were powerless to stop Real once they got into their stride. Bale's free-kick into the area caused havoc as Karim Benzema's effort struck a post, but they took a 12th-minute lead when Rodriguez converted from Ronaldo's clever cutback. Visiting goalkeeper Francisco Casilla saved from Raphael Varane, but he could do little to stop his goal from being breached again in the 28th minute. After Anaitz Arbilla fouled Isco 25 yards from goal, Wales midfielder Bale stepped up and his free-kick crashed off the inside of a post before nestling into the net. Espanyol tightened up their defence as Real, perhaps with an eye to the return clash with Atletico in the cup on Thursday, eased off. Sergio Gonzalez's men's hopes of forcing a result were boosted when Coentrao was given his marching orders in the 53rd minute, receiving a straight red card for a rash foul on Jose Canas. But that only served to refocus Real, who went close soon after as Varane and Bale missed the target with close range headers. But they were not be denied as substitute Nacho netted in the 77th minute with a lovely finish from Alvaro Arbeloa's pass. Isco could have made it four in the closing stages, but his strike from just outside the area was wonderfully tipped over by Casilla.