Cristiano Ronaldo, Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema scored to lead Real Madrid to a 3-0 victory over Espanyol in the Spanish league on Tuesday.
The Portugal forward had to retake a penalty in the 62nd minute but confidently tucked it into the same spot at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
With both teams reduced to 10 men, Higuain slid Ronaldo's through ball past Carlos Kameni and inside the near post in the 78th for 2-0.
Benzema replaced Higuain and capped a well-worked buildup by Lassana Diarra, as the France striker shook off two Espanyol defenders inside the area before firing past Kameni for the last in the 88th.
Madrid took the overnight lead in the standings with Valencia able to regain top spot against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday, when Barcelona can also keep pace with a win over Sporting Gijon. "The result was good because it was a very difficult game," Benzema said. "It was a very important goal for me." Also, Athletic Bilbao continued its good start with a 3-0 victory over Mallorca, while Osasuna picked up its first victory in a 3-1 win over Real Sociedad as a round of midweek games got under way. Despite the strong finish, Madrid looked disjointed throughout as Espanyol kept its midfield from stringing its attack together, especially in the first half.
Espanyol had the game's first chance as Marc Callejon blasted a hard shot past Iker Casillas but past the far post in the fifth minute.
Kameni showed quick reflexes two minutes later to deflect Angel Di Maria's shot wide after Mesut Oezil played the Argentina forward free into the area.
Di Maria shot wide just before Ronaldo's free kick flew into Espanyol's defensive wall and Luis Garcia's arms to set up the penalty.
The Barcelona club nearly equalized in the 42nd but Sergio Garcia shot wide.
Higuain volleyed wide from close-range in the 47th and then Espanyol sustained good pressure with Casillas stretching to tip Joan Verdu's shot wide in the 54th.
Espanyol only briefly enjoyed a man advantage after Pepe's sending off for a second yellow in the 60th as Ernesto Galan was harshly shown a straight red card after crashing into Ronaldo three minutes later.
Madrid coach Jose Mourinho still made defensive changes with Sami Khedira replacing Oezil and Alvaro Arbeloa on for Di Maria, but that didn't keep Espanyol at bay as it kept up the pressure: Alvaro Vazquez just missed with a header, while Kameni denied Higuain in the 78th.
Kameni then tipped Ronaldo's effort wide in the 82nd and Casillas tipped Alvaro's header over the bar just after to keep Espanyol from rallying. It was reduced to nine men after Juan Forlin was sent off for protesting following the last goal.
Benzema, who was on the substitutes' bench for the fifth straight game, showed Mourinho he was ready to contribute. "I hope I have a lot more time to score more goals," Benzema said. "I'm going to work very hard for (Mourinho)." At the San Mames stadium, David Lopez curled in a shot from the far right with goalkeeper Dudu Aouate distracted by the onrushing Fernando Llorent in the 44th minute.
Jose Carlos Nunes handled inside the area as he tried to hold off Llorente and Mikel San Jose stepped up to score the penalty in the 62nd. Inigo Perez buried the third in injury time after Llorente's shot was tipped to him in front of the area.
At Pamplona, Real Sociedad blew an early lead after Raul Tamudo put the visitors ahead in the 17th.
But Walter Pandiani's sharply headed ball equalized in the 38th before Javier Camunas redirected into goal for the winner five minutes later. Carlos Arranda headed in the third in the 75th. In Wednesday's other games, Zaragoza plays Hercules and Almeria faces Levante.
On Thursday it's: Sevilla vs. Racing Santander; Getafe vs. Malaga; and Villarreal vs. Deportivo La Coruna.