Gareth Bale rifled home a thunderous free-kick as ten-man Real Madrid returned to winning ways with a 3-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernebeu.
James Rodriguez opened scoring in the 12th minute after receiving a headed pass from Cristiano Ronaldo. Bale doubled the hosts’ advantage 16 minutes later, when he blasted a left-footed free-kick in off the post with Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla caught flat-footed.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were reduced to ten men on 53 minutes as Fabio Coentrao got a straight red card for a low tackle.
Real undermined their numerical disadvantage, with substitute Nacho Fernandez grabbing the side’s third goal to place the game beyond Espanyol.
The Los Blancos are now four points apiece ahead of second-placed Barcelona and third-placed Atletico Madrid, both of which are set for a head-on battle for the La Liga runners-up spot on Sunday at the Camp Nou.
The win over Espanyol came on the back of a 2-game losing run, which had seen the leaders’ Spanish record 22-win streak come to an end with losses at Valencia in the league and Atletico in the Copa del Rey.
A moment of silence was held before kick-off for the 12 people killed at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office in Paris. Madrid also paraded its Club World Cup trophy won last month before the start.
Espanyol remain in tenth position with 20 points from 18 matches.
Madrid will host Atletico on Thursday looking to overturn a 2-0 first-leg defeat to retain hopes of keeping their Copa del Rey title defence alive.