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La Liga: Benzema hat-trick helps Real back to winning ways and more...

April 22, 2019 11:17 IST

Real Madrid

IMAGE: Real Madrid's Karim Benzema scores their second goal. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

Karim Benzema netted a second-half hat-trick as Real Madrid got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday.

The Frenchman increased his tally to 21 league goals this season – the first time he has achieved the total since 2015-16 – and now has 10 goals in his last seven appearances for the club.

 

Victory left Real, who had drawn with Leganes in their last outing, in third place on 64 points. They are 13 points behind leaders Barcelona and four behind city rivals Atletico.

Zinedine Zidane once again left Gareth Bale on the bench, with Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio supporting Benzema in attack.

They initially cut frustrated figures throughout an opening period of few chances, with the Bernabeu crowd voicing their frustration.

However, the fans were soon serenading Benzema two minutes after the break when he opened the scoring.

Real Madrid

IMAGE: Real Madrid's Karim Benzema celebrates. Photograph: Susana Vera/Reuters

Jesus Vallejo produced a brilliant last-ditch tackle on Inaki Williams and Real sprung a trademark counter attack, with Asensio leading the charge before centering for Benzema to nod in.

"We all know how good Karim is and what he brings to the side, whether he’s scoring or not,” team mate Marcelo told BeIN Sports.

"He’s one of our leaders. I’m delighted with the goals but I know Karim will be more happy with the fact we have won. We really needed a win more than simply just scoring goals.”

He doubled his tally 15 minutes from the end, heading in Luka Modric’s corner after a calamitous misjudgement from Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

Substitute Brahim Diaz went close for the home side in the closing stages before Bale chipped a one-on-one over the bar.

The Welshman made amends moments later, latching onto another error from Herrerin, who had rushed out of his box in an attempt to clear the through ball.

His weak header dropped at the feet of Bale, who teed up Benzema to complete his hat-trick by firing into an empty net.

"It’s always tough at the end of the season when you’re not playing for anything. We need to always get up for these games,” Marcelo added.

"The first-half was tough, but we showed face and we were much better after the break than in the first period.”

Bilbao have 46 points and stay seventh, three points behind Valencia – who play Real Betis later on Sunday – in the final Europa League spot.

Zidane hails hat-trick hero Benzema as world's best nine

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed Karim Benzema as the best number nine in world football after the French striker hit a hat-trick in the 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

Benzema's treble took him to 21 La Liga goals for the season, moving him to second in the scoring charts behindLionel Messi, and gave him 30 in all competitions.

It also meant that, remarkably, the 31-year-old has now scored Real's last eight goals.

"I know what a player Benzema is, everyone knows it. The number of goals he's scoring is incredible," said Zidane. "I'm made up for him.

"What he's doing here, and the fact he's two goals away from his best-ever goals tally, says it all. Everyone can have their opinion on who is the best number nine in the world and for me it's Karim.

"He is confident, he knows you can always improve too, which is great. It doesn't surprise me what he's doing."

Zidane, though, was left puzzled by the fans' attitude towards Gareth Bale after they booed the Welshman during the victory.

Bale has been omitted by Zidane from the starting eleven in in the club's last two La Liga games, starting just one of the last four, and is without a goal in six games.

He came on as substitute with 20 minutes remaining to a mixed reception, with his first few touches on the ball whistled by the Bernabeu crowd.

Zidane said he did not understand why the fans behaved like this towards him, especially as they applauded Isco, who came on the field at the same time.

Bale did have a good chance to end his barren sequence, only to chip over the bar when one-on-one with Iago Herrerin.

"He had a chance to score and it would've been great if he did, but it didn't go in. I don't want to get involved in the rest," Zidane added.

Bale did go some way to making up for that miss, though, by teeing up Benzema for his third goal.

Marcelo dismisses suggestions he is unhappy at Madrid

Real Madrid defender Marcelo said on Sunday that rumoursabout him leaving the club were false and insisted that he was happy there.

The Brazilian, a key player at Real since arriving in 2007, lost his place to youngster Sergio Reguilon earlier this season and Spanish media reports have frequently linked him with a move to Juventus over the past six months.

The 30-year-old full-back may have been out of favour under former coaches Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari but since Zinedine Zidane's return to the club, he has regained his place in the side.

Having started five of six games with the Frenchman back atthe helm, Marcelo felt the time was now right to speak about his future following Real's 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao.

"I'm focused on the club. Everything that's happened this season hasn't affected me at all. I carried on working hard, helping my team mates, whether playing or not," he said.

"I've always been there with them, backing everyone. Whether you play or not is just part of the season and of being a footballer, but I have never stopped working or helping my team mates. If I play, then all the better.

"Everyone here knows how happy I am and I show it every day, either training or playing, wearing this shirt.

"A lot is being said about me on the outside. I think -- no I don't think, I know -- that Madrid is my home and those who know me know the truth."

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