Real Madrid continued their surge ahead in La Liga as Barcelona needed a late penalty converted by Lionel Messi to spare them from a consecutive embarrassing results.
Real won against a determined Espanyol by 2-0 at Santiago Bernabeu thanks to goals from Alvaro Morata and Gareth Bale. Spanish international Morata grabbed the lead for Los Blancos with a polished header from Isco’s cross.
Later in the second half, Gareth Bale secured a two-goal cushion as the Welshman came on for Morata.
Bale had been missing in action for months with an ankle injury, but scored just 13 minutes after coming on as he ran onto Isco’s pass and into the penalty area, controlled the ball with one touch before hitting a low, left-footed shot into the far corner beyond Espanyol keeper Diego Lopez.
Meanwhile, Barca look as if they are prepared to endure another poor result as they claimed an underwhelming 2-1 result against strugglers Leganes.
The Catalan club looked prepared to bounce back from their damning 4-0 defeat by Paris Saint-Germain as Lionel Messi tapped in a Luis Suarez cross right on the fourth minute, only for Leganes to equalize with a strong shot by Unai Lopez.
It was on the last minute of normal time that Barca finally got a lifeline as Neymar won a penalty — which Messi converted to steal a win.
The result meant that Barcelona is second in the table on 51 points, one behind Real, who have two games in hand on the Catalan club and third placed Sevilla, who have 49 points after a 2-0 win over Eibar.