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Real Madrid fights back for 3-1 win over Espanyol

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Real Madrids Eder Militao celebrates after he scored his sides second goal during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Saturday, March 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)more

- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2023

BARCELONA, Spain Vincius Jnior sparked Real Madrids 3-1 comeback over Espanyol in the Spanish league on Saturday, keeping Barcelona within reach in the title race before the rivals meet next weekend.

Joselu Mato put Espanyol ahead at the Santiago Bernabeu in the eighth minute. But Vincius equalized in the 22nd before der Militão headed Madrid in front for good in the 39th.

Substitute Marco Asensio added a third goal in stoppage time as Madrid ended a three-game winless run between the league and the Copa del Rey.

Carlo Ancelottis team reduced Barcelonas lead to six points before the front-runners visit Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Karim Benzema missed the game as he rested to recover from an ankle problem. Before the game, Ancelotti said that he expects his striker to be ready to face Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday, with Madrid holding a 5-2 advantage from the first leg of the round of 16.

Madrid will then visit Barcelona on March 19 in a clsico that will likely weigh heavily in the title fight.

PHOTOS: Real Madrid fights back for 3-1 win over Espanyol

We were coming from a run of poor results and this gives us confidence for the tough week ahead, said Madrid defender Nacho Fernndez, who set up Asensios goal. This was an important win because we know we have the head-to-head matchup (with Barcelona) next weekend.

Espanyol, which was left in 13th place, took the lead when Joselu scored with a fine touch of his left boot.

Espanyols Jos Gragera tackled Aurlien Tchouamni in midfield to start the counterattack. Rubn Snchez deftly controlled a long ball with his chest to breeze past Eduardo Camavinga, and Joselu volleyed his cross into the top corner of Thibaut Courtois net.

Joselus goal made him the leagues second-leading scorer with 12 goals. Only Barcelonas Robert Lewandowski has scored more with 15.

The modest squad from Barcelona even grazed a second goal when Vincius de Souza tested Courtois with a point-blank header.

But when Madrids Vincius got going, Madrid never gave Espanyol much of a chance to pull off the upset.

The Brazil forward looked hemmed in by Espanyol when he received the ball on the left side of the area. But a quick change of direction toward the center opened up just enough of a window for him to thread a shot between four defenders before it hit the post and found the net.

It was Vincius eighth goal in the league and 19th overall, giving him one more than Benzema this season.

Madrid pressed its advantage and it was only a matter for time before Espanyol gave way again.

Espanyols defenders were scrambling after a ball that Madrid quickly worked around its area before Militão jumped over his marker at the near post to head in a short cross by Tchouamni.

Diego Martnez sent on extra attackers for Espanyol in the second half, but it was Madrid that went closest to another goal when Rodrygo struck a free kick off the crossbar in the 75th.

We were in the match until the final minutes, Joselu said. We gave it all we had, but Real Madrid shows no mercy.

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