A Cristiano Ronaldo double and Gareth Bale’s first goal in seven matches helped Real Madrid thrash Alaves 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday to strengthen their grip on a top-three spot in La Liga. The reigning champions’ title hopes are all but over, with Real 11 points adrift of leaders Barcelona in third, but a run of four straight wins has ended any worries of missing out on a Champions League spot.
Coach Zinedine Zidane brought Bale back into the starting XI after dropping the Welshman to the bench for the midweek victory over Leganes, but the reunited ‘BBC’ of Bale, Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were left frustrated for much of the first half. The deadlock was finally broken shortly before the interval, as Benzema’s delightful flick found Ronaldo, who duly drilled the ball into the corner.
The Portuguese forward’s return to top form has been key to Real’s climb up the table, with the opening goal his 13th in the league this season. Benzema was again the creator as Bale made it two less than a minute into the second period. The Frenchman powered forward and laid the ball off for Bale, with the 28-year-old winger finishing with aplomb to end a run of six games without scoring.
Ronaldo has been having no such problems in front of goal, though, and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner wrapped up the points just after the hour mark. He ran onto Lucas Vazquez’s pass to slot home his 13th goal in his last seven games in all competitions, including the vital two in last week’s Champions League first-leg win over Paris Saint-Germain. Benzema was rewarded for his earlier selflessness with a late penalty as Ronaldo passed up the chance for a hat-trick.
Barcelona can open up a 10-point lead over Atletico Madrid when they host Girona later on Saturday, with Diego Simeone’s capital club not playing until their Sunday visit to Sevilla. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo gave their hopes of qualifying for the Europa League a boost as Iago Aspas scored in a 2-0 win over Eibar.