BARCELONA: Karim Benzema ensured Real Madrid kept the pressure on leader Barcelona in the Spanish league by scoring one goal and assisting on two more as bottom-side Getafe was defeated 5-1 yesterday. Benzema scored his 22nd goal of the competition before setting up Francisco “Isco” Alarcon and Gareth Bale to put the result beyond doubt early in the second half. After James Rodriguez made it 4-1, Cristiano Ronaldo rounded off Madrid’s seventh consecutive league victory in stoppage time with his tournament-leading 31st goal.
Madrid, which this week advanced to a Champions League semifinal against Manchester City, provisionally passed Atletico Madrid into second place and moved to within one point of struggling leader Barcelona. “We are doing our job and are getting closer and closer,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, whose team trailed Barcelona by 12 points just four rounds ago. “We are going to bed one point behind, but we can’t look beyond that.” Barcelona will try to end a three-round winless run against Valencia on Sunday, when Atletico will host Granada. Diego Simeone’s side, which eliminated Barcelona from the Champions League quarterfinals this week to advance to a tie with Bayern Munich, trails Barcelona by three points. After this weekend there will be five rounds left.
“We have always said that we will never give up,” Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas said. “We have to win our remaining matches and then see what happens.” Also, Sporting Gijon stayed in the relegation zone, one point above Levante and Getafe, after drawing 1-1 at Las Palmas. Getafe remained winless for a 13th successive match in the debut of coach Juan Esnaider, a former Madrid player who replaced the fired Fran Escriba on Tuesday. “We tried,” said Esnaider, praising his players’ attitude. Despite Getafe’s best effort, Madrid outclassed its crosstown rival. Ronaldo, who hit a hat trick on Tuesday to lead Madrid’s comeback over Wolfsburg in the Champions League, struck the post early, and waves of attacks inevitably led to Benzema’s breakthrough when he used his right foot to sweep in Rodriguez’s cross. Benzema worked a one-two passing combination to help Isco make it 2-0 before halftime, and his pass let Bale romp forward before beating goalkeeper Vicente Guaita in the 50th. Pablo Sarabia got Getafe’s consolation goal with six minutes left before Rodriguez and Ronaldo struck. — AP