Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol: La Liga – as it happened

Alvaro Morata and Gareth Bale give Real Madrid a 2-0 victory over Espanyol, and the home side extend their lead at the top to four points

Easy does it for Real Madrid, and they extend their lead at the top to four points. Espanyol battled gamely, but they barely threatened, and Real’s quality told in the end. Two good goals for Real, from Morata and the returning Gareth Bale, and, all in all, a very solid day’s work for Zidane’s men.

Thanks for reading. Bye.

Full-time: Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol

And that’s that.

90 min Penalty this time for Ronaldo? No, it’s offside! Ronaldo was wrestled to the ground by Martin, and it looked a clear penalty – but then the ref changed his mind because the linesman’s flag was up.

88 min Ronaldo wanted a penalty, and looks at Alberto Undiano in anguished fashion, but Duarte did very to reach it and take the ball away.

86 min That was a great finish from Bale: he had lots to do, but the shot was really accurate. And another assist for Isco, his second of the day.

84 min A truly clinical counter-attack from the home side. Espanyol had a free kick in the attacking third, but it was headed clear, and Real were away. Isco held it, and held it, and then slipped in Bale, motoring down the left side, and the Welshman’s finish was really slick: hard and low inside the far post. Great goal; game over.

GOAL! Real Madrid 2-0 Espanyol (Bale 84)

He’s back, baby!

Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the second goal.
Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the second goal. Photograph: Javier Barbancho/Reuters

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82 min Casemiro receives a booking for a clip, and is incredulous.

81 min Kroos crosses from the right, and Pepe heads wide. A poor header by his standards.

80 min Yellow card for Aaron Martin for some illegal wrestling on Lucas. Nacho, who’s played well, is replaced by Marcelo.

78 min Lucas tries to hit a volley from the same position that Marco van Basten scored his memorable goal against the Soviet Union in 1988, but the outcome is not the same.

76 min Espanyol have been toothless in attack, but Real aren’t home and and dry yet. Carvajal hits a bouncing ball from 30 yards, but it’s easy for Diego Lopez.

74 min Good play from Casemiro to set Lucas away, but his cross for Isco is overhit. With a little more care, Real could be two or three up here.

72 min Jurado hits one from about 35 yards, and it doesn’t test Casilla. It’s well, well over the bar.

Gareth Bale makes his return for Real Madrid.
Gareth Bale makes his return for Real Madrid. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

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Gareth Bale returns for Real!

71 min Mega applause as Bale enters to replace Morata. Morata’s done OK today – and he took his goal very well.

69 min Morata escapes down the left, hangs one up, and Ronaldo heads over! He got up so well, but just couldn’t crane that bulging neck of his over the ball. Unlucky.

68 min Diop is booked for a naughty foul on Casemiro. Espanyol still haven’t tested Casilla. Bring back Raul Tamudo!

66 min Another corner for Real. Cleared away.

65 min Casemiro tries to recreate his stunner against Napoli on Wednesday, but it’s into row Z.

62 min Espanyol win a corner. But Kroos heads it clear, and suddenly Real are away … but Lucas Vazquez’s pass is poor. Real had options then.

61 min Kovacic’s day is done, and he has quite a shiner to show for it, following that clash with Diop. I wonder if that cut will need further attention. Casemiro is in.

59 min Espanyol just haven’t been able to fashion anything in the Real half. But while it remains 1-0, they’re still in the game.

57 min David Lopez rescues Espanyol with Ronaldo and Morata looking to feast. Another corner, but again it’s cleared, and now Espanyol break with a three on two … but Perez turns into Varane, and then is whistled for a foul. That was a chance for Espanyol on the counter!

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55 min Real are purring here, and it’s another corner, their ninth. But Espanyol have defended Real’s set pieces well, and it’s headed clear again. Kroos has a blast from long range, but it’s a couple of feet over the bar.

53 min And Ronaldo fires it straight into the wall.

52 min Javi Fuego is booked for a pull on Ronaldo, and this is a good shooting chance for Real, 25 yards from goal in a central position.

49 min Nice break from Real, and Ronaldo made an excellent overlapping run, but he just couldn’t quite pick out Lucas in the middle.

48 min Isco is yellow-carded for a foul on Piatti. Incidentally, Perez has come into the game wearing a face mask to protect a smashed cheekbone.

47 min Gareth Bale is warming up on the sidelines. Cue much applause from the home fans.

46 min We’re back. One change at the half: Hernan Perez is on for Jose Reyes.

Real comfortably on top, even though they only have one goal to show for it. Espanyol have done well in parts, but they haven’t really tested Kiko Casilla.

See you in 15.

Half-time: Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol

That’s the whistle.

43 min Piatti, incidentally, is wearing a rugby-style scrum cap after suffering a fractured skull against Malaga. Ouch.

41 min Great touch from the bearded Nacho on the left side, and he wins another corner. Headed clear by Duarte, and Kovacic is booked for a clip on Piatti as Espanyol tried to break.

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39 min Espanyol haven’t managed to muster a response since the goal. Real are dominant.

37 min Nearly two for Morata. Nacho did well down the left flank, and the ball found its way to Morata, but he was off balance as he hit his shot, and Diego Lopez watched it wide.

34 min Terrific play from Isco on the right, and his cross was perfect: Morata got between two defenders and planted a super header beyond Diego Lopez. Great goal, and richly deserved.

GOAL! Real Madrid 1-0 Espanyol (Morata 33)

And that’s a deserved lead!

Alvaro Morata opens the scoring with his head.
Alvaro Morata opens the scoring with his head. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

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32 min Real are firmly on top here.

31 min Ronaldo has the ball in the net, but it’s ruled out for offside. Very close, but probably the right call. Morata was also lingering in an offside position.

30 min That was almost 1-0. Espanyol gave it up, Ronaldo got in in the inside left-channel, and he fired across the goal – but Morata couldn’t get the vital touch at the far post. Real corner, though.

27 min A quite magnificent elastico from Cristiano Ronaldo on the left side of the penalty box, but he can’t quite pick out a team-mate. Gerard is booked for a crude tackle on Kovacic, who is back on with strapping under his eye. From the free kick, Morata flips it over the bar from eight yards – but he was offside anyway.

Cristiano Ronaldo looks to cross under pressure from David Lopez.
Cristiano Ronaldo looks to cross under pressure from David Lopez. Photograph: Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

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25 min Kovacic is off the field getting treated for a cut under his eye after a clash with Diop. Will he be able to continue?

23 min Good pressing from Real, and they win another corner. Lucas tries to gobble up the loose ball, but the whistle goes for a high foot.

20 min Great play from Lucas on the right side, and his cross is put behind for a corner, Real’s fifth. They can’t make it count, though.

18 min Nacho wants a corner, but Alberto Undiano Mallenco says goal kick. Nacho is mildly furious.

16 min It’s a rather enjoyable game now. Both teams trying to play football. Real win a corner, but good defending from the visitors.

14 min Ooh, Real got lucky there: Gerard made a terrific run, and was beautifully found, and suddenly was clear on goal … but the linesman put his flag up for offside. It wasn’t, though! Bum call for the officials. Gerard should have been allowed to continue.

13 min Real heating up here, and Morata shows some lovely skill to put Duarte on his backside, but Espanyol get bodies back to smother. From the corner, Diego Lopez plucks the cross out of the air.

12 min Corner to Real. Kroos into the middle, and Pepe heads wide! Big chance for the central defender, but he just got his finish wrong. James and Marcelo exchange incredulous glances on the bench.

Real Madrid’s Pepe heads under pressure from Espanyol’s Oscar Duarte and David Lopez.
Real Madrid’s Pepe heads under pressure from Espanyol’s Oscar Duarte and David Lopez. Photograph: Javier Soriano/AFP/Getty Images

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11 min Anybody out there?

9 min Nice move from the hosts, but Morata just can’t quite get on the end of Lucas Vazquez’s cross.

7 min Gerard wins a corner for Espanyol. Played in by Jurado, and David Lopez heads over. He might have done better there – he was free in the box.

4 min Kroos swings in a free kick from the right side, but it’s headed clear.

3 min Toni Kroos seeing a lot of the ball early on for Real. The hosts enjoying the lion’s share of early possession, as you might expect.

1 min And we’re off! Real Madrid all in white; Espanyol in their change strip of dark grey with pink trim.

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The players are in the tunnel. Everyone’s full of bonhomie. We’ll be under way shortly.

If you’d prefer to keep up with happenings around the various leagues, Ben Fisher has today’s Clockwatch here:

A result from earlier: Atlético Madrid won 4-1 away at Sporting Gijon – thanks to a 4min 43sec hat-trick from Kevin Gameiro. Rapid! The Frenchman scored in the 80th, 81st and 85th minute to keep Atleti hot on the heels of Sevilla, Barca and Real. According to Opta, it’s the fastest hat-trick since Bebeto’s for Depor against Albacete in 1995.

As expected, Gareth Bale starts on the bench for the league leaders. Kiko Casilla comes in for a rare start in goal, Sergio Ramos has a knock, and Karim Benzema and Luka Modric are rested.

Today's teams

Real Madrid: Kiko Casilla, Pepe, Raphaël Varane, Nacho, Daniel Carvajal, Toni Kroos, Isco, Mateo Kovacic, Álvaro Morata, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas Vázquez. Subs: Marcelo, Gareth Bale, James Rodríguez, Casemiro, Rubén Yáñez, Marco Asensio, Mariano.

Espanyol: Diego López, Óscar Duarte, David López, Aarón Martín, Diego Reyes, José Manuel Jurado, Papakouli Diop, Javi Fuego, Gerard Moreno, Pablo Piatti, José Antonio Reyes. Subs: Roberto, Felipe Caicedo, Hernán Pérez, Álvaro Vásquez, Víctor Álvarez, Rubén Duarte, Marc Roca.

Ref: Undiano Mallenco

A wild result from the FA Cup: Lincoln City have become the first non-league team to reach the quarter-finals in 103 years – and they’ve done it by beating Premier League Burnley. Scott Murray has more:

Hello and welcome

Real Madrid get back to domestic action after their midweek victory over Napoli in the Champions League, and all eyes are on Gareth Bale. Wales’s star man is back in the Real Madrid squad for the first time in three months, after picking up an ankle injury against Sporting in November, and he’s expected to play some part today.

Bale is delighted to be back, according to Coach Zizou. “Bale will be in the squad and the idea is for him to have some minutes,” the French ace told a news conference. “He’s excited to be with us and we’re happy to have him, although we still have two or three who have injuries. Nearly everyone is ready. Bale is an important player. We know his quality, his speed, the damage he can cause the opposition. I’m happy to have him but he’s even happier to be back with the team and ready to play.”

Zidane’s side lead Barcelona by a point, with two games in hand, and can extend the gap at the top to four with victory today. (Barcelona take on Leganes on Sunday.) Espanyol, managed by former Watford boss Quique Sánchez Flores, sit ninth, four points off a Europa League spot, but it’s a tough ask for them to return from the capital with victory in their swag bag: Real haven’t lost at home against Espanyol in the league since 1996.

Kick-off’s at 4.15pm local time, 3.15pm GMT and 10.15am ET. Join us then.

Tim will be here shortly. In the meantime, enjoy five classic free-kicks from the great Roberto Baggio, who’s celebrating his 50th birthday:

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