Bale back with a bang for Real Madrid

 

Bale back with a bang for Real Madrid
Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring (AP)

Madrid - Bale's return will be particularly welcome for coach Santiago Solari

By AFP

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Published: Mon 28 Jan 2019, 9:39 PM

Last updated: Mon 28 Jan 2019, 11:42 PM

Gareth Bale needed just two minutes to mark his return from injury with a goal as 10-man Real Madrid held on for a 4-2 victory over Espanyol on Sunday.
Bale had been out since January 3 with a calf strain but made an instant impact off the bench at the RCDE Stadium, where Karim Benzema continued his own rich vein of form by scoring twice.
Sergio Ramos was also on target with a brilliant header before Leo Baptistao kept Espanyol in sight. Bale and Benzema seemed to have wrapped things up but Raphael Varane was sent off with 18 minutes left and substitute Roberto Rosales drove in to set up a nervy finish.
Madrid, however, survived for their fifth win in sixth matches, even if it was only enough to restore the 10-point difference behind Barcelona, who had earlier seen off Girona 2-0, with Lionel Messi scoring a sublime chip.
Barca, five points ahead of Atletico Madrid, keep winning but Real are gaining momentum, with the resumption of the Champions League just around the corner.
Bale's return will be particularly welcome for coach Santiago Solari.
"Gareth is happy," Solari said. "He came on and scored straight away, which is great for him and his confidence.
"Little by little he has to regain the form of before, like during the Club World Cup when he scored three goals. This is the Gareth we want to see, with that hunger to score goals."
Benzema now has 15 goals this season and his first was a simple finish in the third minute, as he pounced on a rebound from Luka Modric's shot.
Ramos is their second top scorer with 10, his excellent header looping into the far corner, before Baptistao gave Espanyol a lifeline with an emphatic shot from the edge of the area.
But Benzema added a third on the stroke of half-time and when Bale, after replacing Vinicius Junior, made it four, it looked like the game was up.
Instead, Varane was sent off for bringing down Pablo Piatti as the last man and Rosales set Madrid's nerves jangling by chesting and volleying past Thibaut Courtois with nine minutes left.
Benzema's surge, and Bale's fitness, could yet prove key to their second half of the season, particularly in Europe, in La Liga it is Messi, and Barca who lead the way.
 


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