Karim Benzema scores two late goals as 'energy' guides Real Madrid past Espanyol

A 3-1 win at Cornella-El Prat keeps defending champions perfect after the first three games of the season

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Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti attributed his team's 3-1 La Liga win at Espanyol to their superior "energy", with Karim Benzema scoring twice in the final few minutes on Sunday to keep the defending champions perfect from their first three games.

Vinicius Junior opened the scoring for Madrid early in the first half with a first-touch finish from a brilliant pass by Aurelien Tchouameni.

The young French midfielder, signed for a potential €100 million ($99.49m) from Monaco, put in another solid performance in place of the departed Casemiro, who left the club after signing for Manchester United.

Real were in control until Joselu levelled from a rebound right before half time and, roared on by their fans, Espanyol put up a fight against the Champions League and La Liga champions, dominating most of the second half.

Javi Puado almost put the home team in front after collecting a good pass inside the box, but his shot ended up being blocked for a corner.

In the 58th-minute, Real goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois pulled off a fantastic one-handed stop to keep out Joselu's close-range shot.

As Espanyol upped the aggression, Ancelotti brought on youngsters Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga and they started to turn the match in Real's favour, especially on the counter-attack.

Benzema had a great opportunity but was denied by keeper Benjamin Lecomte, put another effort wide, and had a goal ruled out by the video assistant referee on a really close offside call.

Yet two minutes from time, Rodrygo found Benzema at the far post with a perfect cross and the French striker put Real Madrid back in front.

In added time, the video assistant referee spotted a foul by Lecomte on Dani Ceballos in what was considered a clear goal-scoring opportunity on the edge of the area.

Lecomte was shown a straight red card and Benzema took charge of the free kick, bending it into the bottom corner to wrap up the points.

“We started very well, scoring early on, but then we lowered our intensity for a while," Ancelotti said. "We were slow. It became difficult once they equalised, with a lot of interruptions in the game. It became an end-to-end match and that was good for us.

"We won the match because we had more energy on the pitch than the opponent. We have the energy of Camavinga, Rodrygo, Valverde or Vinicius.”

Asked whether the showings of Rodrygo and Camavinga from the bench had convinced him to start the youngsters more often, Ancelotti said: “Each match is different. If we’d started today with Camavinga and Rodrygo, we might not have enjoyed the control of the first hour. If we’d substituted on Kroos and Modric, maybe we wouldn’t have had energy at the end. It’s a gamble. Sometimes it comes off, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Real Madrid sit top of the table on nine points, level with Real Betis. Barcelona and Villarreal are right behind on seven points, with Osasuna and Real Sociedad on six.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 5:05 AM