Karim Benzema scored his sixth goal in four games as Real Madrid beat Alaves 3-0 on Sunday for a fourth successive La Liga victory which took the European champions to within eight points of leaders Barcelona.
The French striker knocked a cross from Spanish left back Sergio Reguilon into the net from close range on the half hour mark, breaking the deadlock against an organised Alaves side who beat Real 1-0 earlier in the season at Mendizorrotza.
Brazilian teenager Vinicius Jr. sealed victory in the 80th minute, with substitute Mariano Diaz further stretching the home side’s lead in added time.
Santiago Solari’s side have burst into form in the last three weeks, beating Real Betis, Sevilla and Espanyol in the league and thrashing Girona 7-2 on aggregate in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.
With second-placed Atletico Madrid losing at Real Betis earlier on Sunday and champions and league leaders Barca stumbling to a 2-2 home draw with Valencia, Real knew a win would see them gain ground on their rivals.
Real coach Solari has cut a frustrated figure during the team’s stop-start season but he was in bullish mood after the game.
“Today everyone could see how hungry we were to gain points on our rivals and we have done that. We’re going to fight for everything until the end of the season,” the Argentine told reporters.
“Madrid never give up and we are always hungry. We always go out to win every game, without doing the maths.”
The victory took Real to 42 points, cutting the gap on second-placed Atletico Madrid to two points ahead of next Saturday’s city derby, and moving within eight points of Barca, who they visit on Wednesday in a Copa del Rey semi-final first leg.
Real never looked like letting their lead slip after Benzema struck, but they did not see off Alaves until the in-form Vinicius tapped in a cross from substitute Marco Asensio to score his first La Liga goal.
VINICIUS OUT-PERFORMS BALE
Along with Benzema, Vinicius has spearheaded Real’s revival and it was the 18-year-old who had provided the through ball to 22-year-old Reguilon which led to Real taking the lead through Benzema.
The teenager provided more spark than Gareth Bale, who was substituted midway through the second half following a first start since returning from a muscle injury.
“He has been out for a while and little by little he’s picking up the pace. It was difficult for him because Alaves defend very well and there was little space,” Solari said of the Wales forward.
Spain international Alvaro Odriozola had a goal ruled out for offside but he teed up substitute Mariano Diaz, who completed the scoring with a diving header.
“We have been much better in 2019, we are in our best form of the season and we’re going to keep working like this to ensure we stay on this path until the end of the campaign,” Vinicius said.