Real Madrid didn’t need Cristiano Ronaldo or Gareth Bale to maintain their perfect start to the La Liga campaign on Sunday.
The Galactico pair could only watch as James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema fueled the 11-time European champions to a 2-0 defeat of Espanyol in Barcelona.
Real boss Zinedine Zidane had confirmed Ronaldo and Bale were out with minor fitness problems, and one of their replacements, Rodriguez, opened the scoring just before the break.
The Colombian superstar nutmegged a defender and fired an unstoppable low shot across Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez and into the far corner.
Benzema then sealed the points 71st minute, steering in Lucas Vázquez’s low cross at the near post to give Real 12 points from their first four games this season.
Aritz Aduriz scored twice as Athletic Bilbao hit back from behind to heap more woe on pointless Valencia with a 2-1 win at San Mames.
The visitors had snatched a second-minute lead through Alvaro Medran but Aduriz struck twice before the break to consign his former club to their fourth consecutive La Liga loss.
The win eased the pressure on Bilbao boss Ernesto Valverde, whose side have also made a poor start to the new campaign and lost 3-0 to Sassuolo in the Europa League in midweek.
A wonder strike from 60 yards by Nicola Sansone steered Villarreal to a 2-1 win over 10-man Real Sociedad at El Madrigal.
The German-born Italy international fired the hosts in front midway through the first half before adding a Beckhamesque second soon afterwards as he spotted Sociedad goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli way off his line.
Yuri pulled one back for the visitors but Fran Escriba’s men overcame an early Alexandre Pato penalty miss to claim a third consecutive win in all competitions.
Celta Vigo collected their first point of the La Liga season but will be wondering how they ended up drawing 0-0 at Osasuna.
The Galicians dominated from almost start to finish at the El Sadar Stadium. But they were unable to beat inspired Osasuna goalkeeper Mario Rodriguez and also encountered some bad luck.
Daniel Wass and Iago Aspas struck the woodwork as Celta failed to find the finishing touch their good approach play deserved.