Karim Benzema

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La Liga: Real Madrid win to stay within striking distance of second

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: PSG crowned Ligue 1 champions with five games left ]

Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao

Karim Benzema bagged a hat trick (WATCH HERE) — his 19th, 20th and 21st goals of the league season (second-most, 12 behind Lionel Messi) — to send Real Madrid to a comfortable victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. The result also keeps Los Blancos within four points of capital rivals Atletico Madrid in something of a battle for second place behind runaway leaders Barcelona.

Benzema has scored 10 goals in his last seven La Liga appearances, a run in which Madrid have complied a 5W-1D-1L record. Benzema failed to score in Zinedine Zidane’s re-debut as Madrid manager, but has scored eight goals in five games since.

Sunday’s game marked the 300th league appearance for midfielder and 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric in a Real Madrid shirt.

Getafe 3-0 SevillaWATCH HIGHLIGHTS

Sevilla’s hopes of returning to the UEFA Champions League following a one-year hiatus took a serious hit on Sunday, as Pablo Machin’s side was hammered by Getafe, the side which now occupies fourth place, two points ahead of them. Getafe continue to enjoy their meteoric rise through the Spanish ranks, as they were competing in the second division this time two years ago.

Two of the three goals the scored on Sunday came from the penalty spot, as Jaime Mata and Jorge Molina converted in the 35th and 45th+4′, respectively. Molina completed the scoring eight minutes into the second half.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Real Betis 1-2 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Espanyol
Villarreal 2-1 Leganes

La Liga: Real Madrid escape with win over last-place Huesca

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Spain’s top flight…

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League? (video) ]

Real Madrid 3-2 Huesca

To say this has been a season for Real Madrid fans to forget would be a wild understatement. From the fact they trail rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona by two and 12 points, respectively, and were bounced from the UEFA Champions League in the round of 16 by Ajax, the summer transfer window and the new season next August can’t arrive soon enough.

On the bright side, Los Blancos avoided another major embarrassment on Sunday, though coming so perilously close to such a disaster remains quite embarrassing in its own right.

Karim Benzema’s 89th-minute winner (WATCH HERE) was exactly what Madrid needed to knock back 20th-place Huesca, a side headed directly for relegation with 22 points from 29 games.

Madrid fell behind before three minutes had been played, but Isco righted the ship in the 25th minute. Dani Ceballos put Zinedine Zidane’s side ahead in the 62nd, but the advantage lasted just 12 minute before Xabier Etxeita made it 2-2 in the 74th. Benzema’s late strike was the only thing that could separate the two sides.

It’s a far cry from the displays of domination put forth by Spain’s undisputed two best teams on Saturday — Barcelona winning the Catalan derby 2-0 over Espanyol, and Atleti hammering fifth-place Alaves 4-0.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Sevilla 0-1 Valencia
Levante 2-2 Eibar
Rayo Vallecano 1-1 Real Betis
Real Valladolid 1-1 Real Sociedad

La Liga: Madrid struggles early in win, Valencia prevails late

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Real Madrid weathered a Real Valladolid penalty miss, two opposing goals ruled out by VAR, and an eventual opener for the hosts, before finally rising up to a 4-1 win at Estadio Jose Zorrilla. While Karim Benzema scored twice in the second half in the comeback win.

Madrid full-back Alvaro Odriozola fouled Sergi Guardiola just 12 minutes in, but Ruben Alcaraz delivered a horrid penalty miss miles over the bar. Moments later the hosts had the ball in the back of the net but VAR ruled Keko offside on his delivery for Guardiola’s goal. Next up, Guardiola was offside as he headed the ball into the net before the 20-minute mark, but he’s flagged for offside and VAR confirms the decision.

Finally, they went in front as Moroccan midfielder Anuar finishes off a combined delivery from Keko and Guardiola. That was the blow to wake Real Madrid up, and they would go on to a storming victory. Raphael Varane started the party in the 34th minute to equalize thanks to a horrible punch from Jordi Masip, and Benzema got his first from the penalty spot soon after halftime. He put Madrid 3-1 up on a header from a Toni Kroos corner, and despite Casemiro’s marching orders 10 minutes from time, Luka Modric finished the scoring as the game wound down on a feed from who else but Benzema.

10-man Valencia looked to have coughed up a late lead after Facundo Roncaglia was sent off, but 19-year-old Ferran Torres rescued all three points in the 90th minute with a vicious counter. Girona had equalized twice in front of the home fans, for the second time in the 83rd minute, but the young Valencia product rounded Girona goalkeeper Bono on a breakaway and scored into the open net to secure the win, moving his club into seventh in the table.

Jonas Ramalho was the first to bring Girona back level in the 22nd minute, canceling out Goncalo Guedes’s early goal. After Dani Parejo put Valencia back in front soon after the halftime break, Roncaglia earned two yellows in a 10-minute span as the visitors lost a man. Cristhian Stuani was on hand to take advantage from the spot with seven minutes to go, but Torres pulled Valencia into sixth in the La Liga table.

Real Betis kept pace with Valencia with a 1-0 win over Celta Vigo, finally finding a winner in the 80th minute as Jese Rodriguez pinged home a rebound after a shot from Cristian Tello was saved by Ruben Blanco. The visitors at Estadio Municipal de Baladios dominated the match with 14 shots to Celta Vigo’s seven, holding the hosts to just a single shot on target. Betis sits in seventh, level with Valencia on points but back on goal differential.

A four-goal second half saw Sevilla run away with a 5-2 win over Real Sociedad at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Wissam Ben-Yedder scored a second-half hat-trick to lead the way, with the third coming from over 30 yards out as goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli challenged way out of net on a breakaway but was beaten. Sevilla moved to sixth with the win, jumping both Valencia and Betis.

La Liga: Real Madrid pulls within two of 2nd place Atletico

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While Barcelona sits atop the La Liga table with a comfortable six point cushion, the race below them continues to rage on. On Sunday, the waters were muddied a bit thanks to a 3-0 Real Betis win at Atletico Madrid, allowing their cross-town rivals to gain ground.

Real Madrid topped Alaves 1-0 at home, pulling them to within two points of Atletico in second place. All the way back in ninth in early November, Madrid has hit its stride and rocketed back up the table with a stretch of eight wins in their past 11 league matches.

Karim Benzema was the opening goalscorer on Sunday, as his 30th minute tap-in capped off a simple overlap between Sergio Reguilon and Alvaro Odriozola that somehow picked apart the Alaves right flank. Reguilon crossed it for Benzema streaking in at the back post and he poked in his ninth league goal of the season and third in the last two games.

The 31-year-old Frenchman has come under fire this season for his goal scoring form without Cristiano Ronaldo to draw defenders, but has responded with a stretch of five goals in his last seven games. Other popular Madrid players have received criticism as well, and while Gareth Bale has maintained his starting place, others like Marcelo and Isco have dropped to the bench. Young players like Regulion, Odriozola, and Vinicius Jr have come in and taken their spots in the lineup with improved play, helping Madrid right the ship.

18-year-old Vinicius Jr finished things off 10 minutes from time on the break as a cross from Marco Asensio passed Benzema but fell to Vinicius at the far post for a powerful low finish. Substitute Mariano added the icing on the cake with a 91st minute with a diving header, redirecting Odriozola’s cross into the top-right corner.

Meanwhile, Atletico was held by Betis in Alvaro Morata’s debut for the club, but they could only put one of their 13 shots on frame, and the wasteful afternoon was punished by Sergio Canales from the penalty spot just past the hour mark. Morata had the team’s only shot on target, coming in the 11th minute. From that point on, the visitors were wasteful, and when Filipe Luis handled the ball in the area, that allowed Canales to step up and bury his sixth goal of the season, and third in the last four games.

With Barcelona at the top on 50 points, the Atletico loss leaves them six points back in second on 44. Real Madrid’s win, meanwhile, moved them to within two of their rivals, on 42 points in third place.

Elsewhere, Espanyol came back from 2-0 down on the road at Villareal to secure a 2-2 draw. A Daniele Bonera own-goal in the 75th minute opened the door, and Roberto Rosales scored six minutes later to secure the draw. The result is a tragic one for Villareal, who is battling relegation and has not won since November 25, unable to turn five draws in that span into anything more meaningful. The point Sunday saw them up to 19 on the season, but it didn’t help them gain much ground on 18th placed Rayo Vallecano or 17th placed Leganes both on 23 points.

And finally, Eibar pummeled Girona 3-0 behind a brace from 34-year-old Brazilian striker Charles who has six goals in his last six league games.

Barcelona, Real Madrid roll in La Liga action

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Barcelona extended its lead at the top of the La Liga table to eight points, while Real Madrid climbed into third as both Spanish giants won in convincing fashion on Sunday.

Lionel Messi found the scoresheet as Barcelona topped Girona 2-0 at Estadi Montilivi. Nelson Semedo grabbed his first goal in a Barcelona shirt just nine minutes in as a sloppy goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall right to the 25-year-old’s feet and he ripped it home low inside the right post.

Girona managed to match Barcelona on the shot count and had numerous chances to score, including one by Pedro Alcala soon after Semedo’s goal, and another from Pere Pons just before halftime that required a goal-line clearance from Gerard Pique. In the 51st minute, Girona fell a man down when Bernardo Espinosa picked up a second yellow card for hacking down Luis Suarez, and that made it tough for the hosts to find a way back in.

Barcelona grabbed its second goal when Lionel Messi produced a spectacular chip over Bono in the 68th minute and that was all she wrote for Barcelona. Still, despite the win, under-fire attacker Philippe Coutinho continued his poor form, creating just one chance and not influencing the game as the fans expect him to in Ousmane Dembele’s absence.

Karim Benzema was the star for Real Madrid, scoring a pair as they won 4-2 over Espanyol on the road. Benzema struck first just four minutes in, collecting a rebound from a saved Luka Modric shot and redirecting it back into the net past a sprawled-out Diego Lopez. Sergio Ramos picked up Real Madrid’s second in the 15th minute with a powerful header, and Benzema restored the 2-goal lead in the 67th minute with a right-footed effort across the face of goal and into the bottom-right corner.

Gareth Bale gave Real Madrid a 4-1 lead, and Espanyol wouldn’t find its second consolation goal until late after Madrid had fallen a man down on a straight red card to Raphael Varane for a controversial last-man foul that may be rescinded later, as replays showed Varane never touched substitute Pablo Piatti who spilled to the turf after tripping himself just outside the box on a breakaway.

Madrid had troubles with referee Jesus Gil all day, with Ramos pushing his luck after a 26th minute yellow card, right in the referee’s face to argue his case. Overall, seven yellow cards and the one red were handed out in the match, with Madrid picking up five of those eight.