Sep 20, 2016

    Madrid set mark with 16th straight league win


    REAL Madrid shrugged off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to post a club-record 16th consecutive league win at Espanyol to stay top of La Liga on Sunday.

    James Rodriguez made the most of a rare start to open the scoring in first-half stoppage time before Karim Benzema sealed all three points 20 minutes from time.

    The 2-0 victory restores Real's three-point lead over Barcelona and Las Palmas and equals Barca's La Liga record of 16 straight wins under Pep Guardiola in 2010/11.

    "I am happy not just with the goals of James and Karim but with their performance in general," said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.

    "They have talent that can make the difference, but the most important thing is that they work as hard as they did together."

    Without the ill Ronaldo and injured Bale, Madrid took their time to get going.

    Captain Sergio Ramos was lucky to escape an early sending-off when he handled Hernan Perez's shot after picking up a booking inside two minutes.

    Espanyol have now lost their last nine meetings with Real. But they had a great chance to go in front when poor defending from Pepe gifted the ball to Leo Baptistao inside the area, only for the Brazilian to fire straight at Kiko Casilla.

    Rodriguez was making his first start in 133 days after shining in Madrid's miraculous, late, come-from-behind win against Sporting Lisbon in midweek.

    And the Colombian made his case for a more regular spot in Zidane's midfield when he nutmegged Pape Diop just before the break and planted a fine, left-footed effort into the bottom corner.

    "It has always been my dream to play here," Rodriguez told BeIN Sports on his reasons for not forcing through a move away from the Bernabeu during the recently closed transfer window.

    "I am just one more player but if I can score and create goals, then all the better."