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Espanyol 2-4 Real Madrid: Gareth Bale scores minutes into return

Gareth Bale marked his return from injury with a goal as Real Madrid continued their impressive turnaround in results by beating Espanyol 4-2.

Real got off to a flying start when Karim Benzema scored in the fourth minute on the rebound, beating former Real goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who had parried a shot from Luka Modric.

Captain Sergio Ramos headed home a cross from Modric in the 15th minute to score his fourth goal in January and put Madrid further at ease, although Espanyol pulled themselves back into contention with a strike from Leo Baptistao 10 minutes later.

Santiago Solari’s side restored their two-goal advantage when Benzema struck again just before halftime, playing a one-two with Vinicius Jr and curling the ball into the bottom corner after a delightful backheel from the Brazilian teenager.

Bale came off the bench midway through the second half after more than three weeks out injured and the Wales forward scored within three minutes of his return, collecting a pass and escaping from two defenders with a drag of the heel before smashing into the net.

Madrid were reduced to 10 men later in the game when Raphael Varane was given a straight red card for blocking a goalscoring chance with a foul, and Espanyol pulled back another goal with a wonderful strike from Venezuelan Roberto Rosales.

Real, who made a poor start to 2019 but have now won five of their last six games in all competitions, are third in the standings on 39 points, 10 behind leaders Barcelona who beat Girona 2-0 earlier on Sunday, while Espanyol dropped down to 15th.

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