Karim Benzema scored two late goals to extend Real Madrid’s 100% winning record as Los Blancos edged past Espanyol 3-1 on Sunday night at the RCDE Stadium.
Vinicius Junior scored his second goal of the season to give Carlo Ancelotti’s side the lead, but Joselu restored parity two minutes before half-time.
It looked like the visitors would have to settle for a point until Benzema popped up with just two minutes remaining to poke home Rodrygo’s back post cross before settling it with a superb free-kick 10 minutes into added-time.
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It took Real Madrid just 12 minutes to make the breakthrough, Vinicius Jr latching onto Aurelien Tchouameni’s lovely, disguised pass before stroking it past the helpless Benjamin Lecomte.
Playing with a quick tempo and intensity, Real Madrid continued to dominate proceedings and came close to doubling their lead, but Vinicius Jr lifted his shot narrowly over the bar.
Espanyol slowly grew into the game and fired a warning when former Real Madrid defender Leandro Cabrera glanced his header agonisingly wide of the far post.
Just moments later, the hosts were level. Joselu had plenty to do when he received the ball with his back to goal, but he held off the challenge of Eder Militao, swivelling before forcing Thibaut Courtois into a save. He would react quickest to the rebound and this time finished superbly.
It could have got even better for the hosts but for a stunning save by Courtois on the hour-mark when the Belgium international somehow kept out Joselu's venomous shot from point-blank range.
Real Madrid began to up the ante in search of a winner but were left frustrated by Espanyol’s stubborn rear-guard. Benzema’s curling effort was parried by Lecomte and when he found a way past the Espanyol goalkeeper, the France international was stood in an offside position.
But the talisman wouldn’t be denied. With time quickly running out, he made an intelligent run to the back post to volley home Rodrygo’s cross.
Rodrygo thought he had got on the scoresheet only for his goal to be ruled out for offside. However a subsequent VAR decision ruled Lecomte had fouled Dani Ceballos in the build-up and the Espanyol goalkeeper was sent off, the first player of either side to be carded. Benzema stepped up and curled the free-kick into the far corner leaving outfielder Leandro Cabrera no chance in the Espanyol goal.
The victory means Real Madrid climb back to the top of La Liga with three wins from three.
TALKING POINT – Benzema already in breathtaking form
Having been flagged offside on numerous occasions and also seeing a goal chalked off, it looked set to be a frustrating night for the France international. But on a week in which Benzema was awarded the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year prize, the 34-year-old reminded the world of his undeniable qualities with two moments of absolute quality.
Benzema has now scored 28 goals for Real Madrid this calendar year in all competitions - no player from Europe's big five leagues has netted more this year. He has a relentless quest for goals and a knack of popping up at the right place at the right time, and it was his predatory instincts that proved the difference here as Real Madrid moved back to the top of the league.
With three league wins from three away games so far, combined with their UEFA Super Cup triumph, it has been a superb start to the season for Carlo Ancelotti’s side, who play Real Betis on Saturday and then travel to Celtic for their opening Champions League game three days later.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH - Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid)
Benzema will, understandably, take the headlines but Vinicius Junior's contribution shouldn't go unnoticed. His intelligent run and cool finish set the tempo for a superb all-round display. He played a number of key passes and his movement dragged the Espanyol defenders from pillar to post.
Real Madrid: Courtois 8, Vazquez 7, Militao 7, Rudiger 7, Alaba 6, Modric 7, Tchouameni 8, Kroos 7, Valverde 7, Benzema 8, Vinicius Jr 8*.. subs: Rodrygo 7, Camavinga 7, Carvajal N/A, Ceballos N/A
Espanyol: Lecomte 7, Olivan 6, Cabrera 7, Calero 8, Gil 7, Darder 6, Exposito 7, Puado 6, Vinicius 7, Sanchez 6, Joselu 7.. subs: Bare 5, Ribaudo N/A, Gomez N/A
12’ - GOAL! ESPANYOL 0-1 REAL MADRID (VINICIUS JR): A second goal of the season for Vinicius Jr and it's lift-off for Real Madrid! Tchouameni plays a one-two with Vazquez before threading a delightful throughball for Vinicius Jr. He has plenty to do but keeps his composure to slot it into the far corner.
43’ - GOAL! ESPANYOL 1-1 REAL MADRID (JOSELU): There's the equaliser! Joselu draws the hosts level with a fine individual goal! Receiving the ball with his back to goal, he holds off Militao, swivels and gets his shot away. Courtois makes a good save, but Joselu is quickest to the rebound and smashes it home!
60’ - STUNNING SAVE BY COURTOIS! You will do well to see a better save this weekend! There is a host of bodies in front of him but Courtois somehow keeps Joselu's venomous shot from point-blank range out!
63' - BENZEMA... NO! Camavinga lays it off to Benzema on the edge of the penalty area. He opens up his body and curls a shot towards goal, aiming for the far corner. Lecomte watches it all the way and is at full stretch to push it wide.
66' - GOAL DISALLOWED! Camavinga is allowed to run through the Espanyol midfield with relative ease before teeing up Kroos. His low shot is turned in by Benzema but the linesman's flag is immediately up and the goal won't stand.
88' - GOAL! ESPANYOL 1-2 REAL MADRID (KARIM BENZEMA): There's the winner! Benzema pops up in the 88th minute to poke home Rodrygo's back post cross to surely give Real Madrid all three points.
90’+6 - RED CARD! Lecomte is shown a straight red card for a foul on Ceballos on the edg of the penalty area. It takes an age for the decision to be made, but the referee finally shows the Espanyol goalkeeper his marching orders after reviewing the replay on the pitch-side monitor.
90’+ 10 - GOAL! ESPANYOL 1-3 REAL MADRID (KARIM BENZEMA): Oh, what a goal! It's worth the wait as Benzema bends it into the bottom corner. The defender Cabrera, who has taken the goalkeeper's shirt, can't do anything but watch as it nestles in the net.
- Aurelien Tchouameni made his first assist in just three appearances for Real Madrid in LaLiga - Casemiro failed to make a single assist in his last 18 league games for Real Madrid.
- Vinícius Junior has scored 19 goals in 38 games for Real Madrid in La Liga since last season, no Brazilian player has scored more in Europe's top five leagues since then (19 also Neymar Jr. in 26 games in Ligue 1).
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