In-form playmaker Isco struck twice and Cristiano Ronaldo netted his first goal of the campaign to give Luka Modric-inspired Real Madrid a 3-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday.

The comfortable victory in an unusual midday kickoff at the Bernabeu secured a joint share of the lead in the standings for Carlo Ancelotti’s side alongside Villarreal and Atletico Madrid with a perfect nine points from three games.

Atletico won 2-1 at Real Sociedad, while promoted Villarreal’s impressive 3-0 win at Osasuna on Saturday suggested the team known as “yellow submarine” are unlikely to surrender their top flight status again this term.

Real’s success suggested the Ancelotti’s players have not been distracted by the drawn-out saga over the arrival of Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur.

The nine-times European champions finally wrapped up the purchase of the Wales international later on Sunday, which Spurs said set a transfer record of 100 million euros ($131.86 million).

The 24-year-old has agreed a six-year contract and will be presented on Monday after a medical, Real said.

After a subdued start at their giant, sun-drenched arena, Karim Benzema dinked a pass through to Isco in the 26th minute and the Spain playmaker, who joined from Malaga in the close season, drilled a shot past Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

Ronaldo powered home a header from Angel Di Maria’s free kick moments before halftime for his 202nd goal in 202 official games for Real and his 11th against Bilbao, putting him on a par with the club’s former strikers Raul and Hugo Sanchez.

Bilbao threatened a comeback on a couple of occasions before Isco picked up another assist from Benzema, again whistled by the home crowd after fluffing a number of chances, and the 21-year-old found the net with a sublime 72nd-minute strike.

Ibai Gomez made the scoreline slightly more respectable for the visitors, who have now conceded 22 goals in their last five league visits to the Bernabeu, when he clipped the ball past Diego Lopez in the 79th minute after neat work on the right from fellow substitute Oscar de Marcos.

“Things are going well for me,” Isco said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Canal Plus.

“We have only just started the season and three wins in three is the right path to follow to make it a good year for us,” he added.

“We want to keep improving little by little and aspire to win all the competitions we are taking part in.”

COMPLETE MATCH

Croatian Modric, who started alongside Germany‘s Sami Khedira in central midfield, had an excellent game and the crowd chanted his name midway through the second half when he snuffed out a Bilbao attack.

Modric has not always convinced the Real faithful since joining from Spurs but former Real forward Emilio Butragueno, now a club director, said he had turned in a “very complete performance in every sense”.

“He is an intelligent player capable of adapting to different positions and functions,” Butragueno told Canal Plus.

David Villa fired Atletico ahead in the 27th minute at Sociedad’s Anoeta stadium and set up Spain team mate Koke to make it 2-0 in the 57th before Xabi Prieto pulled a goal back for the Basque side with just over 20 minutes left.

Atletico’s Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied Sociedad’s an equaliser with a stunning reflex save in the 89th minute and another fine stop in the first minute of added time.

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has rested Xavi and Alexis Sanchez for the Spanish champions’ game at Valencia later on Sunday (1900 GMT) but Lionel Messi is back in the squad after missing last weekend’s 1-0 win at Malaga with a bruised thigh.

Barca, Atletico, Bilbao, Villarreal and Real were the only teams to win their opening two games.

Reuters

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