No Ron, no prob­lem

> Real net record 16th straight win

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

REAL MADRID shrugged off the ab­sence of Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Gareth Bale to record a club record 16th con­sec­u­tive league win 2-0 at Es­panyol to stay top of La Liga yes­ter­day.

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.

Vic­tory re­stores Real’s three­p­oint 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 and 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 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 left­footed ef­fort into the bot­tom cor­ner.

“It has al­ways been my dream to play here,” Ro­driguez told BeIN Sports on his rea­son­ing 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.”

Once in front Zi­dane’s men con­trolled the game in the sec­ond pe­riod.

For­mer Real goal­keeper Diego Lopez made a stun­ning save to pre­vent Ben­zema’s vol­ley on the turn ex­tend­ing the vis­i­tors lead and then also turned away a de­cent ef­fort from out­side the box by the French­man.

How­ever, Ben­zema wasn’t to be de­nied a third time when he swept home Lu­cas Vazquez’s low cross at the near post.

Else­where, Va­len­cia sank to the bot­tom of the ta­ble as the only side with­out a point this sea­son as Los Che sur­ren­dered an early 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 at Ath­letic Bil­bao.

“I have to think about how to turn this sit­u­a­tion around,” said un­der-fire Va­len­cia coach Pako Ayestaran.

Nani set up Al­varo Me­dran to put the vis­i­tors in front af­ter just two min­utes.

How­ever, Be­nat Etxe­bar­ria teed up Aritz Aduriz for his first two goals of the sea­son to turn the game around be­fore half­time and con­demn Va­len­cia to their worst start in 17 years.

“When a team has gone on a run of three de­feats and re­ceive a blow that they don’t ex­pect, it af­fects them,” added Ayestaran.

“We for­got how to play. The team are dis­traught.”

At the other end of the ta­ble, Vil­lar­real moved up to sixth with their third win in a week as Ni­cola San­sone’s first-half dou­ble earned a 2-1 win over Real So­ciedad.

Celta Vigo moved off the bot­tom with their first point of the sea­son in a 0-0 draw at Osasuna. – AFP

Real Madrid’s James Ro­driguez kicks the ball to score dur­ing their Span­ish league match against Es­panyol at the Cor­nel­laEl Prat sta­dium in Cor­nella de Llo­bre­gat yes­ter­day. –

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