Cristiano Ronaldo draws blank but Real close on leaders in La Liga
January 13, 2014 -- Updated 1106 GMT (1906 HKT)
Cristiano Ronaldo has a resigned look after another chance goes begging in Real Madrid's 1-0 win at Espanyol.
- Real Madrid win 1-0 at Espanyol in La Liga
- Cristiano Ronaldo fails to score, Pepe heads winner
- Ronaldo favorite for Ballon d'Or award for 2013
- Juventus extend club record to 11 wins
Follow us at @WorldSportCNN and like us on Facebook
(CNN) -- With Cristiano Ronaldo misfiring in front of goal it was left to Real Madrid defender Pepe to grab the winner as Los Blancos took closer order in the La Liga title race Sunday.
Portugal's Pepe rose unmarked to head home Luka Modric's free kick early in the second half to give his side a 1-0 win at Espanyol.
"He is having a very good season," coach Carlo Ancelotti said of the veteran defender after his team kept a third consecutive clean sheet.
"At first he was hesitant about staying and I told him that he was important for us. It is no coincidence that the team has done better defensively in recent matches. The defenders have improved a lot."
With Barcelona and Atletico Madrid drawing 0-0 Saturday, the victory drew Real to within three points of the leading duo in a three-way title race.
Ronaldo may be hot favorite to be crowned as the world's best player at the Ballon d'Or awards in Zurich Monday, but for once his famed finishing deserted him in this vital match for his side.
Espanyol might have taken an early lead when Cristian Stuani headed wide, but the visitors took command and Ronaldo wasted his first chance after being set up by Karim Benzema.
France forward Benzema headed just wide from a Gareth Bale cross just before halftime and it was Pepe who finally found the net soon after the break.
A second appeared inevitable when Ronaldo broke clear but he was left ruefully shaking his head as Espanyol goalkeeper Kiko Casilla made another superb save.
Another opportunity to get on the score sheet also went begging with the goal at his mercy after Casilla had saved from Benzema.
But in the end Carlo Ancelotti's men easily held out for the victory while Ronaldo will now be hoping he can get the better of Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich in the battle to be crowned as top player on the planet.
"He's a born winner and, despite the win, he doesn't feel like he did everything that he could because he didn't score," teammate Sergio Ramos said of the 2008 world player of the year.
"He knows that it was a very important win for the team. If I had my way, I would give it to him. There are a lot of people who think so around the world. The statistics are there to see, and he has broken almost every record out there. Maybe this year he deserves it more than others."
Earlier Sunday, reigning Serie A champions Juventus claimed a club record 11th successive win to maintain an eight-point lead over Roma at the top.
Fernando Llorente scored twice for Juve in the 4-1 win at Cagliari, who had taken the lead through Mauricio Pinilla after 21 minutes.
Claudio Marchisio and Stephan Lichsteiner grabbed the other goals for the visitors. Manchester United manager David Moyes was among the crowd at the match, increasing speculation over his intentions in the latest transfer window.
Roma beat Genoa 4-0 and third placed Napoli, a further two points adrift, won 3-0 at Verona.
Part of complete coverage on
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is provoking huge media interest and the hungry attention of Europe's top clubs.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Last season Jose Mourinho wrote off the title of hopes of his "little horse" -- but now he has a squad primed to dethrone Manchester City.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
Luis Suarez will have to wait until late October to make his competitive Barcelona debut his ban for biting an opponent was partially upheld.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1649 GMT (0049 HKT)
Can Louis van Gaal cut it at Manchester United? Will Bayern conquer all in Germany? Is this PSG's year to win the Champions League?
August 7, 2014 -- Updated 1012 GMT (1812 HKT)
It's been a difficult year for Barcelona on and off the pitch, and the signing of Luis Suarez has only increased the prospect of more controversy.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
Germany striker Miroslav Klose, who scored a total of 16 goals at four World Cup finals, has announced his retirement from international football.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
When celebrating an important anniversary, it's always good to look your best. At least that's theory for a Spanish football team's preseason tuxedo kit.
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
While many top European clubs are targeting the U.S. market, French football is setting its sights on expanding into Asia -- with China playing a key role.
July 27, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
Major League Soccer has snared another big name from England with former Chelsea star Frank Lampard committing his future to New York City FC.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1656 GMT (0056 HKT)
Europe's top clubs have booked a summer holiday to the U.S. -- but this is business not pleasure as they look to cash in on the World Cup afterglow.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Former World Cup-winning captain Dunga is appointed coach of Brazil's national team for the second time, charged with restoring national pride.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1420 GMT (2220 HKT)
Colombia's World Cup star James Rodriguez continues Real Madrid's long tradition of signing "Galacticos."
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1007 GMT (1807 HKT)
Germany's World Cup-winning captain Philipp Lahm has decided to go out at the top by announcing his retirement from international football.
Today's five most popular stories