Real Madrid, Barca keep on Atletico's tail

The Pak Banker - - INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS/SPORTS -

Gareth Bale scored twice as Real Madrid re­cov­ered from two con­sec­u­tive league de­feats to beat Rayo Val­le­cano 5-0 on Satur­day.

Atletico Madrid re­main top of La Liga as they came from be­hind away to beat Ath­letic Bil­bao 2-1, while Barcelona rounded off a fine week by over­com­ing stiff re­sis­tance from lo­cal ri­vals Es­panyol to win 1-0 thanks to a late Lionel Messi penalty. Vic­tory for all three ti­tle con­tenders means that Atletico main­tain their one point lead over Barcelona with Real a fur­ther two points adrift in third. Bale also teed up Cris­tiano Ron­aldo to open the scor­ing at the Bern­abeu as the Po­tuguese con­tin­ued his run of scor­ing in each of his last 10 games for club and coun­try by burst­ing past two Rayo de­fend­ers be­fore slot­ting low into the cor­ner. Karim Ben­zema then failed to con­nect with an open goal to aim at and Bale also passed up a huge chance as he kicked the ground when at­tempt­ing to chip Ruben Martinez.

Dani Car­va­jal even­tu­ally made the game safe when he reg­is­tered his first goal for the club from Ron­aldo's cut-back 10 min­utes af­ter half-time.

Bale then took over as he tapped home An­gel di Maria's un­selfish cross be­fore run­ning half the length of the field to slot home his 16th goal of the sea­son to make it 4-0.

And Al­varo Mo­rata rounded off the rout with a fine curl- ing ef­fort 12 min­utes from time. It was a far tougher day for Atletico and Barca as they had to grind out dif­fi­cult wins away from home.

Atletico got off to the worst pos­si­ble start as Aritz Aduriz cush­ioned a long ball into Iker Mu­ni­ain's path and he sent a per­fectly weighted lob over Thibaut Cour­tois and just un­der the cross­bar.

Diego Costa had a chance to re­ply soon af­ter as he was played in by Koke, but his shot was too close to Gorka Iraizoz and the keeper par­ried the ball to safety.

The Span­ish in­ter­na­tional made amends with a sim­i­lar chance nine min­utes later when he was again sent through on goal by Koke and this time fin­ished low into the far cor­ner for his 33rd goal of the sea­son.

Costa was left curs­ing his luck twice in quick suc­ces­sion at the start of the sec­ond pe­riod as he raced onto an­other long ball and shot inches wide be­fore be­ing clearly tripped by Aymeric Laporte in­side the area, but the ref­eree waved away his penalty claims.

Atletico did get the game's all-im­por­tant third goal, though, as Costa fed Filipe Luis on the left and his cross was headed home at close range by Koke.

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