Real Madrid’s 25-match unbeaten run in La Liga came to an end Sunday following a 2-0 defeat at Espanyol, in what Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti called the worst game of the season.
Ancelotti's team was coming off a shock home loss to Moldovan club Sheriff in the Champions League and a scoreless home draw against Villarreal in La Liga.
"We played badly today. We started the game with a plan for both defense and attack which was very well set out but we weren't able to keep calm and stick to it for long enough," Ancelotti said, according to Reuters.
"I don't think our positioning on the pitch was good, either with and without the ball and I have to be honest, I do think it's the worst game since I came back to the club as coach.
"It's very good to play right after losing a game but now it's tough because we have to reflect on this over the international break. I don't think it will affect our attitude. We will push forward."
Madrid had started the season with six victories in its first seven matches overall before being held by Villarreal and losing to Sheriff. It had thrived offensively, entering the weekend with the league's best attack with 21 goals in seven matches.
“It was a bad week,” the Associated Press (AP) quoted Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez as saying. “We have to keep working and make some adjustments, especially on defense. We have a squad that can perform much better than it did in the last three matches.”
Madrid hadn’t lost a league match since a 2-1 home defeat against Levante last season. It was unbeaten in 18 straight away games in the competition, one short of its all-time record.
Ancelotti's squad has been marred by injuries recently and on Sunday the coach couldn't count on Gareth Bale, Marcelo, Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy.
Madrid still tops the league thanks to a better goal difference than defending champion Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad.
Atletico beat Barcelona 2-0 at home on Saturday, while Sociedad was held 1-1 at last-placed Getafe on Sunday. The three top teams have 17 points from eight matches. Sevilla later Sunday missed a chance to join them after losing 1-0 at Granada.
It was the second consecutive win for promoted Espanyol, which is 13th in the standings. It had won only once in its return to the first division, and only once against Madrid in the last 14 years.
“It took a tremendous effort by our team,” said Espanyol forward Raul De Tomas, a former Madrid player. “Real Madrid always makes you work hard until the last minute.”
De Tomas opened the scoring for the hosts from close range in the 17th minute and Aleix Vidal added to the lead in the 60th from inside the area after a nice run past the Madrid defense.
Karim Benzema had a goal disallowed in the 67th for offside but found the net again in a breakaway in the 71st after clearing two defenders and sending a low shot into the corner for his league-leading ninth goal.
Eden Hazard had an 84th-minute goal disallowed because Benzema was offside.
Real next faces Athletic Bilbao at home on Oct. 17.