MADRID: Real Madrid bounced back from their Champions League embarrassment against Wolfsburg in midweek to close to within four points of Barcelona at the top of La Liga with a 4-0 win over Eibar on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Cristiano Ronaldo was one of only three players retained in coach Zinedine Zidane’s starting line-up from the 2-0 defeat in Germany and the Portuguese shone with a goal and two assists as Madrid stormed into a 4-0 half-time lead with James Rodriguez, Lucas Vazquez and Jese also on the scoresheet.
Victory also moves Real above local rivals Atletico Madrid into second, but Diego Simeone’s men can climb back into second spot and to within three points of Barca when they visit Espanyol later on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
Barca is also in action later as they look to win away to Real Sociedad for the first time in seven games stretching back to 2007.
Victory away to Barcelona last weekend had revived Real’s title hopes before they came crashing back down to earth in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Zidane showed his priority remains turning around their quarterfinal tie when Wolfsburg visit the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday as Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Marcelo were left on the bench, whilst Keylor Navas and Luka Modric were rested from the squad.
“I’m happy with the way we played, more in the first half than the second,” said Zidane.
“We know what awaits us and what we are playing for on Tuesday. Now we just have to rest and prepare well.”
Despite the changes, the hosts were always comfortable against the Basque minnows, who now haven’t won in eight games, from the moment Rodriguez smashed home a sumptuous free-kick after just five minutes.
Ronaldo showed he was in a generous mood on 18 minutes when he unselfishly squared for Vazquez to turn home the second.
A typically clinical Madrid counter-attack followed just two minutes later as Jese bore down on goal before teeing up Ronaldo to smash home his 30th La Liga goal of the season and extend his lead to four over Barcelona’s Luis Suarez in the battle to be the league’s top scorer.
The roles were reversed for the fourth just before the break as this time Ronaldo picked out Jese’s unmarked run to the far post to leave the Spanish under-21 international with the simplest of finishes.
With Madrid minds wandering towards their task against Wolfsburg on Tuesday, the second half was far shorter on goalmouth action.
Ronaldo should have grabbed his second of the afternoon when he skewed wide from close range after great play by Mateo Kovacic and Vazquez.
Eibar were inches away from a consolation at the other end when on-loan Atletico striker Borja Baston headed onto the bar from point-blank range to miss out on his 18th goal of the season.