Real Madrid continued its unblemished start under new manager Carlo Ancelotti as it beat Athletic Bilbao 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday to move alongside Villarreal at the top of La Liga.

After a promising start from the visitor, which had also won its opening two games, Madrid began to take control midway through the first-half and went ahead when Isco collected Karim Benzema's lovely scooped pass and lifted the ball beyond Iago Herrerin.

Cristiano Ronaldo then registered his first goal of the season when he nodded Angel Di Maria's free-kick home in first-half stoppage time and Isco made it 3-0 with a deflected strike in the second period before Ibai Gomez scored a consolation for Athletic late on.

With all the transfer speculation surrounding Gareth Bale's imminent arrival in the Spanish capital, it was the absence of one of those rumoured to be leaving the Bernabeu that was the big news pre-match as Mesut Ozil was dropped to the bench by Ancelotti. Ander Herrera was also only a substitute for Athletic following Manchester United's bid for the midfielder earlier this week as Mikel Rico came in to make his debut.

And Rico nearly had the perfect start as he pounced on a slack header by Alvaro Arbeloa but pulled his shot wide of the target.

Di Maria then had Madrid's first real opening in 16th minute from a ball over the top but he failed to connect properly as he tried to lob Herrerin with his first touch, and the goalkeeper made an easy save.

Ronaldo then saw a low drive tipped around the post from Herrerin and from the resulting corner Pepe just failed to turn in Sergio Ramos's header.

However, the host had to wait just a few minutes more for the opener as Benzema picked out Isco and he controlled and finished calmly to register his second goal in as many games at the Bernabeu since joining from Malaga.

Athletic was enraged moments after the opener, though, as Benat Extebarria's free-kick struck Sami Khedira's arm in the wall and referee Carlos Clos Gomez awarded another free-kick just outside the box rather than a penalty. Benat stepped up again and this time saw his effort whistle just past Diego Lopez's left-hand post.

Madrid was continuing to look the more threatening, however, and it was no surprise when it doubled the lead just before the break as Ronaldo rose highest to power home Di Maria's in-swinging free-kick.

Athletic boss Ernesto Valverde introduced Eric Moran and Oscar de Marcos at half-time to try to turn things around and they nearly found a way back into the match nine minutes after the break, but Andoni Iraola's low drive was well held by Lopez.

Great stop

Ronaldo was then only denied his second of the afternoon by an excellent stop by Herrerin as the keeper got down low to parry the Portuguese's free-kick, but Isco did complete his double 20 minutes from time as he controlled another pass from Benzema and saw his volley from the edge of the box deflect in off an Athletic defender.

The visitor did finally get some recompense for its efforts six minutes later when Ibai swept home De Marcos's cut-back. Real held on to ensure Ancelotti has started his maiden league campaign in Spain with three straight wins, a feat Jose Mourinho failed to achieve in his three years in charge at the Bernabeu.

The results: Real Madrid 3 (Isco 26, 72, Cristiano Ronaldo 45+1) bt Athletic Bilbao 1 (Gomez 79).

Saturday: Celta Vigo 1 (Rafinha 29) drew with Granada 1 (Piti 62); Valladolid 1 (Valiente 47) bt Getafe 0; Villarreal 3 (Perbet 23, Aquino 30, Uche 75) bt Osasuna 3-0.

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