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Benzema stars again as Real close the gap with La Liga rivals

Karim Benzema

Bengaluru, February 5: Real Madrid gained ground on both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid in La Liga as Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior each scored in a 3-0 win over Alaves.

Benzema, Vinicius and Gareth Bale started together for the first time and two thirds of the newly-dubbed 'BBV' delivered as Madrid capitalised on Barca being held by Valencia and Atletico losing at Real Betis.

Mariano Diaz, on as a substitute, added a third late on.

Match Stats | Other results | Points table

After 22 rounds, this is the first in which Madrid have been the only winners from the established three clubs, which is as much an indication of their own inconsistency as the sturdiness of Atleti and, particularly, Barca.

Madrid could now overtake Atletico if they win the city derby next weekend but the gap behind Barcelona, whom they face in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, is still a considerable eight points.

It may have been the 5-1 loss to Barca in October that proved the final straw for Julen Lopetegui but Alaves' 1-0 victory at Mendizorrotza, their first over Real in 87 years, was perhaps the team's rock bottom.

Dangerous partner

Dangerous partner

Benzema has been the revival's ringleader since and his latest goal was his sixth in four games, his best streak since January 2016.

The only La Liga player to have scored more in all competitions this season is Lionel Messi.

He did it starting alongside both Bale and Vinicius but it was the latter, not the former, that looks to be Benzema's most dangerous partner.

Disappointing debut

Disappointing debut

Earlier, there had been another first for Atletico up front as Alvaro Morata made his debut but it ended in disappointment after a 0-1 loss to Real Betis.

Atleti could have reduced the deficit to three points at the top but Sergio Canales' second-half penalty means that Barcelona finish the weekend one point further ahead than when they started it.

Messi rescues Barca

Messi rescues Barca

Meanwhile, Messi dragged Barcelona back from two goals down by scoring twice to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to Valencia in a thrilling encounter which interrupted the La Liga leaders' streak of eight consecutive league wins.

Messi halved the deficit seven minutes later by scoring for the ninth consecutive game in all competitions, converting from the spot after having a goal chalked off as the referee had already blown his whistle to award the penalty. Barca's insatiable captain equalised in the 64th with an unstoppable curling strike from outside the area.

Basque derby

Basque derby

Also in the much-hyped Basque derby, it was Real Socidedad, who had the last laugh as they beat Athletic Club 2-1.

Mikel Oyarzabal opened the scoring, with a counter attack in the 16th minute. Sociedad doubled their lead through Willian Jose. Raul Garcia scored a consolation goal form the spot in the 82nd minute for the visitors at the second attempt from the rebound.

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Story first published: Monday, February 4, 2019, 11:08 [IST]
Other articles published on Feb 4, 2019
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