Mon, Feb 20, 2017 - Page 12 News List

Bale scores on return from injury as Real tighten grip

Reuters, BARCELONA, Spain

Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale, right, scores past Hernan Perez of RCD Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday.

Photo: AP

Gareth Bale marked his return to action after a long injury layoff by sealing a 2-0 victory for Real Madrid over RCD Espanyol on Saturday to provisionally stretch Zinedine Zidane’s side’s lead at the top of La Liga to three points.

Alvaro Morata headed home a floated cross from Isco to put Real ahead after 33 minutes against a stubborn Espanyol side and Bale steered another pass from the Spain midfielder in off the post in the 83rd minute shortly after coming off the bench.

Bale, making his first appearance since damaging ankle ligaments in November last year, netted his eighth goal of the season. Real also set a club record of scoring in 42 consecutive games in all competitions.

“I’m delighted that Gareth is back and especially for him, he was so keen to return and feel like a player again after almost three months away from the pitch,” Zidane told reporters.

Real top the standings on 52 points, three clear of Sevilla, who beat Sociedad Deportiva Eibar 2-0 at home thanks to goals from Pablo Sarabia and Vitolo in either half.

Sevilla kept the pressure on Real with the help of an inspired performance from Stevan Jovetic, a loan signing from Inter last month, who laid on the passes for both of the goals.

The Montenegrin forward conjured up a classy piece of skill in the Eibar area before serving a cross for Sarabia to volley home from close range in the 30th minute and then pulled the ball back for Vitolo to make sure of the win in injury time.

Earlier on Saturday, Kevin Gameiro came off the bench to score a hat-trick in the space of five minutes to fire Atletico Madrid to a 4-1 win over struggling Real Sporting de Gijon that kept them fourth in the standings on 45 points.

Yannick Carrasco had given Atletico the lead 12 seconds into the second half, but Sergio Alvarez gave the home side a deserved equalizer in the 49th minute.

However, for the second week in a row Atletico dug deep to rescue the points from an unconvincing display.

Antoine Griezmann had a goal harshly ruled out for offside, but laid on the pass for Gameiro’s first strike, the former Sevilla player calmly rounding Ivan Cuellar to put Atletico ahead in the 80th minute.

Gameiro ruthlessly killed off Sporting with two quick-fire strikes, latching on to a pass from Thomas Partey to score in the 81st minute and taking advantage of another through ball from Griezmann to complete his treble.

The Frenchman is the first Atletico player to score a hat-trick in the league as a substitute, while his treble was the second-fastest in the history of La Liga, behind only Bebeto’s for Deportivo La Coruna against Albacete in 1995.

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