Real Madrid made it four La Liga wins in a row on Saturday, beating struggling Espanyol 2-0 at home despite seeing Ferland Mendy sent off.
Raphael Varane opened the scoring in the first half, and Karim Benzema doubled the advantage after 79 minutes. Mendy added some late drama by picking up a second bookable offence, but Los Blancos held on for the win.
Los Blancos were expected to cruise past Espanyol and took control of the ball early, determined to push the pace. It led to a great early chance for Vinicius Jr., who drew a save out of Diego Lopez. Federico Valverde put the rebound wide.
Rodrygo missed the target with a nice effort after 12 minutes, and Benzema put Lopez to work shortly after.
Real soon stuttered to a halt after the fast start, creating far too little danger against an Espanyol team that pressed high up the pitch. It caused Los Blancos―who were wearing green to highlight the issue of climate change―all kinds of trouble, per Managing Madrid:
Vinicius was the main danger man for the hosts, but he also proved far too ineffective in front of goal, missing wildly or firing his shots too close to Lopez. Valverde didn't fare much better, and instead, it was centre-back Varane who set the example after 37 minutes.
Playing almost as a winger, the France international received the ball on the left side and made a strong cut before firing home.
He doesn't score goals often:
Vinicius had one last chance before the half-time whistle blew, again doing all the right things only to set up a poor shot.
Benzema missed a great chance to double the lead early in the second half, hitting the post, while Wu Lei followed suit minutes later, wasting a great opportunity for Espanyol to do damage.
Jonathan Calleri also had a good look, but his header went wide of Thibaut Courtois' goal. The forward struggled with his aim throughout the half, and it cost Espanyol dearly, with Benzema doubling the Real advantage.
After missing a good chance minutes earlier, the Frenchman made no mistake after 79 minutes, with Valverde turning provider.
Per Managing Madrid, Benzema did all the hard work:
Real should have cruised from that point on, but Mendy had other ideas. Already on a yellow card, he inexplicably decided to plant his studs on the ankle of Victor Gomez and was promptly given his marching orders.
His absence will leave Real dangerously low on full-backs against Valencia:
Manager Zinedine Zidane sacrificed Vinicius for Eder Militao, and Real saw out the final minutes despite being a man down, giving away few opportunities.
Real travel to Belgium for a UEFA Champions League clash with Club Brugge on Wednesday. Espanyol host CSKA Moscow in the UEFA Europa League a day later.