Football: Real Madrid beat Espanyol to equal league record for successive wins

Real Madrid's James Rodriguez kicks the ball to score during their Spanish league football match against RCD Espanyol on Sept 18, 2016.
Real Madrid's James Rodriguez kicks the ball to score during their Spanish league football match against RCD Espanyol on Sept 18, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - Real Madrid brushed off the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to beat Espanyol 2-0 away and maintain their 100 per cent start to the league season while matching the La Liga record of 16 consecutive victories.

James Rodriguez scored his first Real goal in five months to give the visitors the lead in stoppage time before the break and Karim Benzema sealed the points in the 70th minute with a close-range finish past former Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez.

Real stay top of La Liga on 12 points, three above Barcelona and Las Palmas, having equalled Barca's record of 16 straight league wins achieved under Pep Guardiola in the 2010-11 season.

Zinedine Zidane's Real side also broke the Madrid club's record for consecutive league wins, overtaking the 15-game winning streak under Miguel Munoz in the 1960-61 season.

Ronaldo missed the trip to Espanyol with a sore throat, having scored five goals in a 6-0 thrashing last season, while Bale is recovering from a hip injury suffered in Wednesday's last-gasp 2-1 Champions League win over Sporting Lisbon.

The absence of the pair allowed Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio to face their former club, while Rodriguez came in for Germany international Toni Kroos in midfield.

Colombia's 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner has not enjoyed a consistent run in the side since Zidane took charge but seized the opportunity, nutmegging an Espanyol defender outside the area and stroking the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Benzema had looked far from match fit against Sporting but was given another chance by Zidane and, after having an effort ruled out for offside in the first half, the Frenchman tapped in Asensio's low cross to finish off a classy team move.