Three sent off as Madrid win
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema were all on the scoresheet as Real Madrid claimed victory over Espanyol in a hard-fought encounter which also saw three players sent off at the Bernabeu.
Ronaldo opened the scoring with a twice-taken penalty in the first half and then Higuain and substitute Benzema added two more in the final 11 minutes. Neither side finished the match with a full compliment of players, with Madrid defender Pepe the first to be sent off in the 60th minute, before Espanyol duo Ernesto Galan, three minutes later, and Juan Forlin, in the closing stages, also received their marching orders.
The result means Madrid now have 10 points from four games this season under new coach Jose Mourinho, while Espanyol remain on six points. The final scoreline may have looked convincing but it was a far from comfortable victory for the big-spending Spanish giants, who struggled to get the better of a well-organised and disciplined Espanyol side, especially early on.
Espanyol winger Jose Maria Callejon gave the home side a scare early on when he volleyed just wide, and although Angel Di Maria brought a good save out of Carlos Kameni soon after, Madrid produced little to concern the visiting defence in the opening 27 minutes. However, while they were having little success in open play, Madrid are always a threat from set-pieces and that's how they managed to break the deadlock with Ronaldo netting from the penalty spot.
The kick was awarded when Ronaldo drove a 25-yard free-kick into the Espanyol wall and Luis Garcia was adjudged to have handled the ball. Ronaldo, who was not credited with Madrid's opening goal against Real Sociedad when his free-kick took a big deflection off team-mate Pepe, stepped up looking to net his first goal of the season.
The Portugal international sent Kameni the wrong way with his first attempt and then, after being told to re-take the kick, showed equal calm to slot his second attempt into the same spot. That goal still did not seem to settle Madrid down though, and Espanyol gave their hosts a scare just before the break when Luis Garcia's dummy gave Joan Verdu a shooting chance, but he fired wide.
The second half started with both teams going close, Gonzalo Higuain flashing a half-volley narrowly wide before Verdu brought a diving save out of Iker Casillas. Soon after that incident Madrid were reduced to 10 men when Pepe, having been booked in the 54th minute, was shown a second yellow on the hour-mark for pulling back Callejon.
That sparked Mourinho into some frantic re-thinking on the touchline, but as he prepared to shore up his defence by bringing on Sami Khedira and Alvaro Arbeloa, Espanyol too suffered a sending off. Galan was shown a straight red card after his late challenge on Ronaldo left the £80million man writhing in agony.
Mourinho nevertheless opted to bring on Khedira and Arbeloa, replacing attacking duo Ozil and Di Maria, but it was still Madrid who looked the more likely scorers after the two dismissals. Sergio Ramos headed a good chance over and Higuain was denied by Kameni before the Argentinian finally gave Madrid some breathing space with their second in the 79th minute.
Espanyol lost possession on the halfway line and Ronaldo's through-ball was perfect for Higuain, who took one touch before drilling a low shot inside Kameni's near post. Higuain immediately made way for Frenchman Benzema, whose first serious contribution of the match saw him spin in the area before driving a low shot past Kameni for Madrid's third goal in the 87th minute.
Espanyol lost their second player to a red card in the aftermath of that goal as Forlin picked up a second booking, although it did nothing to change the outcome of the match as Madrid claimed their fourth successive win in all competitions.