24 Feb Ronaldo scores a brace as Real Madrid ease past Alaves
Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema were on the scoresheet as a Real Madrid side shorn of several stars continued their impressive form with a 4-0 victory over Alaves.
Ronaldo took his 2018 goal tally to 12 with a brace either side of a cool finish from Bale, whose long-term future at Madrid has been the subject of speculation this week.
Ronaldo could have completed his hat-trick after Bale won a last-minute penalty, but the Madrid captain instead allowed Benzema – who like Bale has had to deal with growing criticism – to take the kick and he fired into the corner of the net.
The result means Zinedine Zidane’s men have now accumulated 18 points from their last seven games, during which run they have scored 29 goals, to boost their hopes of getting back into the top two in LaLiga.
It took a while for the defending champions to break Alaves’ resistance though, with the in-form visitors showing the qualities which had seen them win four of their previous six games to escape the relegation zone.
The hosts dominated possession in the first half but, perhaps missing the influence of key quintet Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo, found it difficult to create chances.
Benzema slipped with only the goalkeeper to beat following a four-on-one breakaway while Bale had two half-chances but could not find the back of the net either.
Reports in Spain claimed this week that Bale has “run out of credit” at the Bernabeu, but he almost answered his doubters with an audacious overhead kick which went just wide.
The Wales international’s second opportunity came after he intercepted an attempted pass by Fernando Pacheco just outside the six-yard box, but the Alaves keeper managed to save his own blushes.
With Alaves giving as good as they got on the counter-attack – Alfonso Pedraza and Alexis both drew vital saves out of Keylor Navas in the first half – Madrid knew an 11th victory in their last 12 meetings with the Basque side was far from certain.
However, with half-time fast approaching, Madrid made the breakthrough.
Benzema created the opportunity with a clever back-heel which allowed Ronaldo to spin in the area and drill home.
That was tough on an Alaves side who have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround under coach Abelardo – going from six points adrift of safety when he took over in December to 10 points clear of the drop zone – but they shot themselves in the foot as Madrid made it 2-0 moments after the restart.
Benzema robbed Ruben Duarte of possession in Alaves territory before racing forward and playing in Bale, who side-footed past Pacheco.
Alaves briefly threatened to pull a goal back through Ruben Sobrino but Navas saved that and Madrid then moved up through the gears.
Benzema had an effort disallowed for offside, Bale skimmed the crossbar with a 20-yard effort before Ronaldo made it 3-0 in the 61st minute.
The impressive Lucas Vazquez picked up a pass from Bale on the right before playing the ball into Ronaldo’s path for the Portugal superstar to side-foot past Pacheco.
Another Ronaldo hat-trick looked there for the taking when Bale was scythed down in the area by Rodrigo Ely late on.
However, instead of taking the kick himself as would normally be the case, Ronaldo deferred responsibility to Benzema and the under-pressure Frenchman got the goal his performance deserved.