Marco Asensio’s goal was enough to seal Real Madrid a 1-0 victory over Espanyol that lifted them to the top of LaLiga.
Asensio’s low angled finish shortly before the break sealed Real a third straight home win, but they were far from convincing against dogged opponents.
Julen Lopetegui’s side dismantled Champions League rivals Roma at the Bernabeu in midweek, but lacked the same fluency against Espanyol, for whom Borja Iglesias struck the crossbar in the second half.
Real forward Gareth Bale, a goalscorer in midweek, was an unused substitute at the Bernabeu on Saturday as Lopetegui rotated his squad.
Isco fluffed Real’s first opening when his mis-timed shot flew the wrong side of a post in the fifth minute.
Espanyol then spurned a gilt-edged chance soon after as Hernan Perez and Pablo Piatti combined inside the box, only for the latter to pull his low effort wide of Thibaut Courtois’ left-hand post.
Real were tidy in possession and hogged the ball for most of the next 20 minutes, but Espanyol were relatively untroubled.
Casemiro headed Isco’s corner narrowly wide, but the visitors carved out the best chance of the half in the 35th minute.
Perez’s vicious drive following a swift counter rebounded off Courtois straight to the unmarked Piatti, but he was thwarted by Casemiro’s brilliant last-ditch tackle as he shaped to shoot.
Real then made Espanyol pay for their let-off four minutes before the break.
Luka Modric’s attempted shot from the edge of the area ricocheted through the legs of two visiting defenders straight to Asensio, who drilled a low angled shot in off the far post.
The incident was referred to the video assistant referee for a possible offside, but the goal rightly stood.
But Espanyol continued to look dangerous when given half a chance.
Borja Iglesias’ shot was kept out by Courtois and a minute later the Espanyol forward struck the crossbar with another effort from outside the penalty area after Real skipper Sergio Ramos’ dithered at the back.
Centre-back Ramos occasionally went AWOL in defence, but was almost rewarded for another foray forward when his header from Isco’s cross drew another fine save from Lopez.
Lopez then saved from Real substitute Lucas Vazquez and although the Bernabeu began to get anxious as the home side struggled to find the game-clinching goal, Espanyol were unable to muster another meaningful attack.