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Real Madrid slipped to a 2-1 defeat at Espanyol on Sunday as Carlo Ancelotti's side followed up a shock Champions League reverse with their first Liga defeat of the season.
Real, who lost to Moldovan minnows Sheriff Tiraspol on Tuesday, blew a chance to pull ahead of Atletico Madrid, who beat crisis-hit Barcelona 2-0 on Saturday to draw level with their city rivals on 17 points.
Ancelotti said Real had played "our worst match of the season".
"I agree, we played badly," the Italian coach added.
"We now need to use the international break to think about why this team's attitude has changed in the space of a week."
Espanyol took the lead on 17 minutes at the RCDE Stadium in Catalonia when Raul de Tomas found the net.
Aleix Vidal scored a sparkling second goal after nutmegging Nacho and smashing the ball past Real 'keeper Thibaut Courtois 15 minutes into the second half.
The defeat leaves Real without a win in three games after they were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal in their previous league match.
Karim Benzema had the ball in the net early in the second half but the goal was ruled out for Luka Jovic's offside.
Just as Espanyol appeared to be about to extend their advantage again, Benzema pulled a goal back on 71 minutes, firing into the bottom corner after the Frenchman collected a pass from Jovic for his ninth league goal in eight games this season.
Espanyol had won just once in seven games this season but they hung on grimly in five minutes of added time to take all three points.