MADRID — Real Madrid equaled a record set by rival Barcelona as James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema scored in a 2-0 defeat of Espanyol on Sunday in the Spanish league.
It was the 16th straight league win for Madrid, going back to last season, matching Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in the 2010-11 season.
Madrid maintained a three-point lead over Barcelona with its fourth straight league victory this season.
Celta Vigo and Valencia remained winless, while Villarreal stayed near the top thanks to a spectacular goal from near the halfway line by Italian striker Nicola Sansone.
Madrid’s victory came despite the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who were rested by coach Zinedine Zidane.
“What is important is to keep adding points,” Madrid goalkeeper Kiko Casilla said. “We are happy because we won again and stayed in the lead.”
Madrid is the only team to have won four straight to start the league. Barcelona won 5-1 at Leganes on Saturday to rebound from a 2-1 home loss to Alaves a week ago. Atletico Madrid routed Sporting Gijon 5-0 to win its second consecutive match and reach eight points, behind third-place Las Palmas, the league’s early surprise team.
Rodriguez opened the scoring by converting a penalty kick in first-half injury time and Benzema sealed the away victory from close range in the 71st minute.
Here is a look at Sunday’s other games:
VILLARREAL 2, REAL SOCIEDAD 1
Sansone scored a spectacular goal from just inside the opposition half with a booming strike that sailed over Real Sociedad goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli in the 25th.
The Italian striker took a chance with a right-footed shot that caught Rulli by surprise. The goalkeeper frantically raced back to try to stop the ball but couldn’t reach it as it went over his head.
The goal came only three minutes after Sansone had opened the scoring from inside the area.
Former Brazil striker Alexandre Pato missed a 16th-minute penalty kick which happened after a foul on the Italian striker.
“He has a lot of resources,” Villarreal coach Fran Escriba said of Sansone. “I’m sure that second goal will be shown all week long.”
It was the second win in a row for Villarreal, which moved to sixth in the standings with eight points. Real Sociedad, which scored with Yuri Berchiche in the 35th, is 13th.
ATHLETIC BILBAO 2, VALENCIA 1
Aritz Aduriz scored two first-half goals to give Athletic Bilbao a come-from-behind win over Valencia, the only team to have lost all four games to start the season.
Valencia went ahead with a close-range shot by midfielder Alvaro Medran just two minutes into the match at San Mames Stadium.
Veteran striker Aduriz equalized with a header in the 24th and scored the winner with a right-footed shot from inside the area the 41st.
“When you go down a goal against a team like Valencia, it’s difficult to come back and we were able to do it,” Aduriz said.
Valencia’s next chance to rebound is Thursday at home against Alaves.
“We have to keep working hard and the victories will come, we haven’t been playing badly,” Valencia defender Martin Montoya said. “We know that our team is capable of improving and getting the results that we deserve.”
Valencia is the last team other than Barcelona, Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid to win the league title. It lifted the trophy in 2004.
OSASUNA 0, CELTA VIGO 0
Celta Vigo and Osasuna remained winless and in the relegation zone after a scoreless draw.
The result left Celta, which secured a Europa League spot with its sixth-place finish last season, second-to-last in the standings. It had lost three straight to start the season.
Osasuna, which had lost two in a row, is in 18th place with two points.