Benzema at the double for 10-man Real Madrid

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Having lost 1-0 in the corresponding fixture last season, Madrid was quick to ensure it did not suffer a similar fate this time around – Benzema ending a three-match scoreless run before Sergio Ramos, who later went off injured, doubled the visitors' tally with his 50th headed goal for Los Blancos.

Leo Baptistao hauled Espanyol back into the contest, but Benzema had the final say of a frantic opening 45 minutes when he slotted in on the stroke of half-time.

Gareth Bale's goal three minutes after his introduction added further gloss, only for Raphael Varane's red card to make things complicated, but though Roberto Rosales' stunning volley set up a thrilling finale, Espanyol could not muster an unlikely comeback.

Madrid was ahead inside four minutes, Espanyol's defence wilting as Luka Modric surged forward and forced Diego Lopez into action, with Benzema on hand to tuck home the rebound.

Espanyol found itself further behind 11 minutes later, Ramos heading Modric's pinpoint cross into the right-hand corner.

Madrid's advantage was halved in the 25th minute, Baptistao thundering a strike into the roof of the net moments after drawing a fine stop out of Thibaut Courtois.

But Espanyol's hard work was undone in first-half stoppage time – Benzema latching onto a loose ball to place a sublime finish into the bottom corner.

With Modric and Benzema both squandering gilt-edged chances to extend Madrid's lead, substitute Bale made no mistake in the 67th minute, slamming in after brilliantly turning clear of his markers.

Varane's desperate lunge on Pablo Piatti gave Espanyol hope, but Rosales' VAR-awarded goal – a fantastic volley into the top corner – proved a mere consolation.