Real Madrid tops Espanyol ahead of Champions League final vs. Atletico
MAY 17, 2014 12:23p ET
Real Madrid signed off a disappointing domestic season with a 3-1 victory over Espanyol on Saturday but of more concern were the doubts raised over the fitness of star forward Cristiano Ronaldo for next weekend's Champions League final.
The Portugal international was named in the starting line-up after recovering from a hamstring injury suffered 10 days ago but pulled out moments before kick-off and was replaced by Isco.
Worries over the 29-year-old's fitness will be an unwelcome distraction for Real in the lead up to the clash against city rivals Atletico in Lisbon next Saturday as they chase a 10th European Cup title and there was more concern when Karim Benzema went off shortly after providing the assist for Gareth Bale's second-half opener with an apparent groin problem.
With Xabi Alonso suspended for the final Sami Khedira made his second successive start in central midfield after six months out with a knee injury but with the obvious distraction of next Saturday it was probably no great surprise the visitors were quicker out of the blocks.
Christian Stuani's shot from the right of the penalty area was blocked with defender Fuentes shooting well over from outside the box after a corner.
Spurred into life, Marcelo's cross was headed over by Benzema from close range while from further out Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos both had efforts narrowly off target.
The hosts began to crank up the pressure and on the half-hour Benzema was denied by goalkeeper Francisco Casilla, Ramos headed over Isco's cross before the last action of the half saw Bale whip a free-kick just wide.
Alvaro Arbeloa replaced Daniel Carvajal at right-back for the second half as Real continued to press with Isco denied and Angel di Maria firing wide.
Espanyol were not quite a spent force with Abraham Gonzalez twice missing the target from distance but that merely delayed the inevitable as Bale struck in the 64th minute, converting Benzema's through-ball on the counter-attack.
The France international's assist was his last significant contribution as he was replaced by Alvaro Morata, who added the second with four minutes to go and then ended any fanciful hopes of an Espanyol comeback after Pizzi pulled one back with his second deep into added time.