James the first for Real

James Rodriguez gets ball rolling for La Liga leaders as they bounce back from two straight defeats to beat Espanyol.

    James Rodriguez is hugged by Cristiano Ronaldo after getting Real Madrid back on track [EPA]
    James Rodriguez is hugged by Cristiano Ronaldo after getting Real Madrid back on track [EPA]

    Spanish La Liga leaders Real Madrid returned to winning ways after consecutive defeats when they shrugged off playing most of the second half with 10 men to secure a 3-0 win at home to mid-table Espanyol.

    Beaten 2-1 at Valencia in the Primera Division last weekend and 2-0 at Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey last 16 first leg in midweek, Real took the lead at the Bernabeu when Cristiano Ronaldo set James Rodriguez up to score in the 12th minute.

    Gareth Bale arrowed a free kick over the wall and into the net off a post to make it 2-0 in the 28th minute before fullback Fabio Coentrao was shown a straight red card for a dangerous tackle eight minutes into the second half.

    Despite that setback, Real remained in control and substitute Nacho clipped home a third goal for the world and European champions, the defender's first for the club, 14 minutes from time.

    The victory stretched Real's lead over second-placed Barcelona at the top to four points. Barca play at home to champions Atletico, who are third and level on 38 points with their hosts, on Sunday.

    "Today things went well," Real playmaker Isco said in an interview with Spanish television.

    "We are happy with the victory and to win again and get back on track. We have to continue in the same way in the league and if the other teams slip up then so much the better."

    Real, whose Spanish record winning streak of 22 matches was ended by Valencia, have a game in hand over Barca and Atletico, with all three teams now having played 17 matches.

    Isco said Saturday's win would lift Real for Thursday's cup return leg at home to Atletico, when they need to score at least twice to have any hope of successfully defending their title.

    "It's going to be tough but we will devote all our energy to the task," he added. "With the support of the fans, I think we can mount a comeback."

    SOURCE: Reuters


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