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2019-2020 LaLiga
  • Raphaël Varane (37')
  • Karim Benzema (79')
  • Ferland Mendy (83')

Real Madrid keep pace in La Liga as Varane, Benzema goals down Espanyol

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Karim Benzema has resurrected himself at Real Madrid this year (1:16)

Steve Nicol firmly believes Karim Benzema is the first name on the team sheet after his display vs. Espanyol. (1:16)

Real Madrid's Raphael Varane and Karim Benzema scored in each half to earn a comfortable 2-0 win over Espanyol that sent their team provisionally top of La Liga on Saturday.

Madrid were not at their best but moved three points clear of rivals Barcelona, who host Real Mallorca in the late game. Real have 34 points from 15 games with Barca on 31 from 14.

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Varane broke the deadlock in the 37th minute after a quiet opening to the game, with Benzema setting up the defender to neatly slot the ball home.

Benzema missed two good chances but got the second goal from close range in the 79th before Madrid defender Ferland Mendy was sent off four minutes later for a second yellow card.

"It was a very demanding game on a physical level, they pressed us high up and we had to be patient in front of goal," Varane said. "We tried to play our game but we lacked the final ball to hurt the opponent. We played well and they did too.

"We have a run of complicated games coming, we're prepared, confident and will give our best to take on this run and finish the year well."

"It was a very demanding game on a physical level, they pressed us high up and we had to be patient in front of goal," said France defender Varane.

"We tried to play our game but we lacked the final ball to hurt the opponent. We played well and they did too.

"We have a run of complicated games coming, we're prepared, confident and will give our best to take on this run and finish the year well."

Real coach Zinedine Zidane started Brazilian duo Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo either side of Benzema, with Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale out injured.

Madrid had more of the ball in the early stages but needed goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to make a fine save to keep out Wu Lei's header.

The Espanyol striker became the first player from China to play at the Santiago Bernabeu, with the lunchtime kick-off in Spain ideal for evening viewing in his homeland.

However the China international saw little of the ball as Madrid dominated, despite not creating many clear chances.

Eventually the hosts moved ahead when Benzema teed up Varane, who tucked the ball into the bottom corner with his weaker left foot.

Benzema should have doubled Real's lead early in the second half but Espanyol's long-time Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez denied the Frenchman as he raced towards goal in a one-on-one.

The forward also fired narrowly wide after being set up by Vinicius, but eventually netted his 11th league goal of the season from Fede Valverde's pass to wrap up the victory.

Vinicius's impressive display could earn him a place in the Clasico against Barca at the Camp Nou on Dec. 18.

"Yes (he played well), but the important thing is not scoring, maybe for him it is, but it's his work, he did really well," Zidane said. "Today the plan was to go with three up, a lot of speed with Vini and Rodrygo and they did really well."

Spanish Primera División Standings

POS Team GP GD PTS
1 Real Madrid 21 +26 46
2 Barcelona 21 +25 43
3 Sevilla FC 21 +7 38
4 Getafe 21 +10 36
5 Atletico Madrid 21 +8 36
6 Real Sociedad 21 +8 34
7 Valencia 21 +3 34
8 Villarreal 21 +7 31
9 Athletic Bilbao 21 +7 31
10 Osasuna 21 +3 28
11 Granada 21 -3 27
12 Real Betis 21 -4 27
13 Levante 21 -6 26
14 Alavés 21 -9 23
15 Eibar 21 -9 23
16 Real Valladolid 21 -7 22
17 Mallorca 21 -15 18
18 Celta Vigo 21 -13 17
19 Leganes 21 -17 15
20 Espanyol 21 -21 15