MADRID: Marco Asensio’s strike earned Real Madrid a 1-0 win over dogged Espanyol to send them provisionally top of the Spanish league yesterday.
Julen Lopetegui’s side were tested by the visitors at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Borja Iglesias hitting the crossbar, but Real held on for the victory.
The hosts, who rested Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Marcelo, dominated possession but were threatened on the counter by the Catalan side who are sixth in the standings after a good start to the season.
Asensio slotted home the winner four minutes before halftime after Luka Modric’s deflected pass found him on the left of the area.
Earlier, Atletico Madrid lifted off in La Liga and so did Thomas Lemar after the Frenchman scored one goal and instigated another in a 2-0 victory over Getafe.
Lemar finished off a superb passing move for Atletico’s second and had been the protagonist for their first, even if his crashing drive struck the woodwork and went in off Getafe goalkeeper David Soria.
The result was all but secure when Getafe’s Ivan Alejo was sent off shortly after the hour for a dangerous tackle on Saul Niguez. The hosts started well at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez but were well beaten by the end.
Atleti had not lost to Getafe, or even conceded a single goal, in 13 previous meetings but this victory meant more to Diego Simeone’s side than a routine three points.
One win from their opening four league games hardly pointed to a team poised to challenge for the title and, more pressingly, it cost them a seven-point gap behind leaders Barcelona.
That deficit may not have changed once Barcelona play Girona at home today, but after coming from behind to beat Monaco in the Champions League on Tuesday, consecutive wins is a start.
Lemar started too, after being left on the bench against his former club Monaco, a decision perhaps informed by his disappointing performance against Eibar three days before.
This was the first time the 22-year-old looked like the player Atletico must have hoped they bought when they spent 72 million euros ($84 million) on him in the summer.
The first goal was almost a cracker as Lemar collected the ball off Antoine Griezmann 30 yards out and let rip with his left foot. Soria was beaten but the crossbar was not, and it needed an unfortunate deflection of the goalkeeper to find the net.
Getafe were unfortunate to be behind but there was no doubt about the second after half-time. A sweeping move saw Atletico move the ball from right to left, with Koke applying the final pass in behind. Lemar touched it around Soria and slotted into the empty net.
Alejo came on in the 63rd minute and was sent off in the 67th, having been riled by a sliding Filipe Luis challenge.