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Higuain fires Real to the top

MADRID, September 22 – Real Madrid moved to the La Liga summit with a flattering 3-0 home win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday with Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema netting their first goals of the season after Cristiano Ronaldo had opened the scoring.

The win means Real maintain their 100 percent home record under coach Jose Mourinho and move one point above Valencia at the top.

Ronaldo got the opener on 28 minutes converting a fortunate penalty before Argentine Higuain scored his first goal of the campaign 11 minutes from time.

With three minutes left substitute Benzema bagged his first league goal just six minutes after coming on.

It was a heated game in which both sides had players sent off with Real defender Pepe sent off on the hour mark before Espanyol had defender Ernesto Galan dismissed three minutes later for crunching Ronaldo.

Espanyol were reduced to nine men when defender Juan Forlin was sent off in the closing minutes for complaining about Benzema’s goal.

Mourinho brought in Frenchman Lass Diarra for Sami Khedira in defensive midfield but stuck by his 4-2-3-1 system with two holding midfielders, Mesut Ozil as playmaker and the speedy Ronaldo and Angel di Maria supplying Higuain.

It was visitors Espanyol who had the first chance after six minutes with Jose Callejon drilling a left-footed volley narrowly wide of the post.

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A minute later his opposite number Carlos Kameni pulled off a terrific save to thwart di Maria pushing the Argentine’s shot over the bar.

Espanyol were holding their own with some slick passing but came unstuck in the 28th minute in an unfortunate incident.

Ronaldo smashed a free-kick into the Espanyol wall and the referee pointed to the penalty spot with Luis Garcia penalised for blocking the shot with his hand.

It was harsh on Espanyol with Garcia unable to get out of the way of Ronaldo’s fierce drive and the striker was harshly booked for his action.

Ronaldo slotted the spot-kick home to Kameni’s left but was forced to retake the penalty after stopping his run up midway through the action.

The Portuguese star put the retake in exactly the same spot with Kameni diving the wrong way again.

Real were more comfortable in the second half but suffered a setback on the hour when Pepe collected a second yellow for fouling Callejon.

Mourinho was pondering playing with one man less but three minutes later the numbers were evened up when Galan was shown a straight red card for a late challenge on Ronaldo.

Espanyol players were furious with the decision but rolled up their sleeves to give Real some hairy moments as they held a slender one-goal advantage.

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Higuain put the game to bed on 79 minutes accepting a Ronaldo pass before slotting past Kameni with his left foot and Benezema completed the scoring.

Earlier Athletic Bilbao registered their first home league win at San Mames defeating Real Mallorca 3-0 on Tuesday to go fourth in the Spanish top-flight.

Bilbao lie three points behind leaders Real, and their next match is at home to champions Barcelona on Saturday night.

In other matches, Osasuna produced their first league win of the season with a 3-1 home triumph over promoted Real Sociedad on Tuesday.

Barcelona go in search of their first league home win of the campaign on Wednesday when they host Sporting Gijon at Camp Nou.

The defending champions, lying in seventh, will be without star man Messi for the next two league matches due to his ankle injury, however, the Argentine could be back for the Champions League match at Rubin Kazan on September 29.

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