Real Madrid got their La Liga title challenge back on course despite an underwhelming performance as goals from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo handed them a 2-0 win at Eibar on Sunday.
In front of a capacity 6,000 crowd at Ipurua, Madrid did little to dispel the doubts caused by their 4-0 thrashing by Barcelona last weekend but Bale's first-half header and a late penalty from Ronaldo were enough for all three points.
Madrid remain in third, but victory takes Rafael Benitez's men back to within six points of league leaders Barca and two points of city rivals Atletico Madrid.
“The important thing was to get the three points and do so with this spirit of sacrifice,” said Madrid boss Rafael Benitez. “The fans know that the most important thing when you have players of this quality is that they also work as they did today. That is the key if we want to continue being strong in the future.”
Eibar have enjoyed a stellar start to just their second season in the top flight, but as against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in their only other two prior defeats this season, they didn't have enough quality to trouble Madrid in the final third.
After a slow start, Ronaldo was presented with a great chance to open the scoring on 15 minutes from James Rodriguez's fine through ball, but he couldn't lift the ball over the advancing Asier Riesgo and Mateo Kovacic wastefully fired the rebound over.
Luka Modric's fierce strike from the edge of the area was also comfortably handled by Riesgo as the pressure built from Madrid.
And it told when Modric's brilliant cross was flicked home at the near post by Bale for his first goal for Madrid in three months since netting twice against Real Betis on August 29.
The Welshman could have had a second moments later as he brilliantly controlled a long ball into the box, but lacked the power needed in his final effort to beat Riesgo.
Bale turned provider at the start of the second period with a pinpoint cross for Ronaldo only for the Portuguese to fluff his lines when attempting an overhead kick.
Aleksandar Pantic had Eibar's best chance to level when he headed over when unmarked from a corner on the hour mark. However, the hosts were lucky moments later when referee Gil Manzano was unmoved despite an apparent push by David Junca on Ronaldo inside the area.
Ronaldo's wayward afternoon in front of goal continued when he somehow failed to hit the target with the goal at his mercy after rounding Riesgo from Lucas Vazquez's pass. Yet, he was gifted the chance to register his 16th goal of the season when Manzano did point to the spot after Vazquez went down under minimal contact from Dani Garcia eight minutes from time.
Aritz Aduriz continued his fine goal-scoring form this season to lead Athletic Bilbao to a 3-0 against Rayo Vallecano.
Earlier, Villarreal missed the chance to move back into the top four as their awful form continued with a 2-0 defeat at Getafe. Angel Lafita and Alvaro Vazquez struck for the hosts to leave Villarreal still in sixth having won just one of their last seven league games.
- WPL 2024 Opening Ceremony live updates: Tiger Shroff represents RCB, Shah Rukh Khan’s performance soon
- IND vs ENG, 4th Test: Akash reaches for the sky, turns heads on his Test debut
- Manchester United’s Hojlund to miss Fulham Premier League clash due to injury
- Ranji Trophy 2023-24 Quarterfinals: Taide ton puts Vidarbha on top against Karnataka on day one
- Ranji Trophy 2023-24 Quarterfinals: Musheer’s ton bails Mumbai out of trouble against Baroda on Day 1