Zidane's sublime finish inspires Real

Real Madrid 4 Espanyol 0
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The Independent Online

Real Madrid made it six league wins out of six under their new coach Wanderley Luxemburgo and kept up the pressure on leaders Barcelona as they outgunned fourth-placed Espanyol with an authoritative victory on Saturday.

Real Madrid made it six league wins out of six under their new coach Wanderley Luxemburgo and kept up the pressure on leaders Barcelona as they outgunned fourth-placed Espanyol with an authoritative victory on Saturday.

The Brazilian has instilled more self-belief and discipline into a team that looked to be in decline, and with the business end of the season under way, the galacticos are out to prove they are not finished yet.

The first to make his point was Zinedine Zidane. The Frenchman, who has been struggling for form, brought the crowd to its feet with a sublime opening goal in the 13th minute. Plucking a 50-yard David Beckham pass out of the air with his toe on the corner of the area, he left Hugo Ibarra sprawling on the newly-laid Bernabeu turf with a step-over and then blasted a fierce shot past Carlos Kameni.

Raul, who has done little to justify his place this season, weighed in with two less spectacular but typically opportunist strikes to put a temporary halt to the debate as to whether he should be keeping Michael Owen out of the team. His first came on the half-hour, just as Espanyol were threatening to fight back, tapping in after Kameni palmed out a venomous drive from Luis Figo.

Raul helped himself to a second after a curling pass from substitute Santiago Solari, who replaced Beckham in the 67th minute. Nevertheless, the England captain had plenty to be pleased about. Apart from providing the pass for Zidane's opener, he freed up the Real midfield by switching the ball from one side of the pitch to the other and showed his usual willingness to cover for Guti in the middle .

Owen was once again on the bench, with just 13 minutes at the end to prove himself, as was Thomas Gravesen, who completed Real's victory with a right-foot shot past Kameni in the 85th minute.

Goals: Zidane (13) 1-0; Raul (30) 2-0; Raul (75) 3-0; Gravesen (85) 4-0.

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Salgado, Helguera, Samuel, Roberto Carlos; Beckham (Solari, 67), Guti, Figo, Zidane (Gravesen, 56); Raul (Owen, 77), Ronaldo. Substitutes not used: Cesar (gk), Bravo, Pavon, Portillo.

Espanyol (4-2-3-1): Kameni; Ibarra, Lopo, Jarque, Domi; Soldevilla, Ito; Maxi (Amavisca, 80), De la Peña, Serrano (Corominas, 62); Dani (Soriano, 80). Substitutes not used: Lemmens (gk), Velamazan, Morales, Fredson.

Referee: J Rodriguez Santiago.

Booked: Real Madrid Figo, Helgguera, Guti.

Man of the match: Zidane.

Attendance: 75,000.

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