Bale hits hat-trick in Madrid romp

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SummaryGareth Bale took his tally to eight goals in his last seven games with a hat-trick as Real Madrid shrugged off the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Valladolid 4-0.

Gareth Bale took his tally to eight goals in his last seven games with a hat-trick as Real Madrid shrugged off the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo to beat Valladolid 4-0.

With the Portuguese sidelined by a slight muscle strain,

Bale proved to be decisive as he headed home the opener after Diego Marino could only parry Angel di Maria's cross

yesterday.

Three minutes later the Welshman teed up Karim Benzema to

double Madrid's lead with a wonderful in-swinging cross that

the Frenchman bulleted home.

Bale grabbed his second of the game when Carlos Pena

could only turn Marcelo's cross into the path of the grateful

former Tottenham man to slot home.

And Marcelo was again the provider as Bale completed his

first hat-trick in Spanish football with a simple left-footed

finish a minute from time.

Victory moved Real to within three points of leaders

Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who were also 2-0 victors over

Elche on Saturday.

Bale claimed he didn't feel any added pressure in the

absence of Ronaldo, but admitted to being desperate to seal

his first Madrid hat-trick after registering his second of the

evening with still 26 minutes to go.

"I didn't feel any pressure to be honest, I just want to

go out there and enjoy my football and play as well as I can.

I always try to do that and thankfully I got a hat-trick.

"I think as soon as I scored the second I was trying to

get the third, I was trying my hardest to get into positions

and thankfully the move did work out and it was a great ball

by Marcelo to put it on a plate for me."

Real boss Carlo Ancelotti said he believes Bale's

goalscoring form is evidence that he has firmly found his feet

in Madrid.

"I think that his adaption period has finished as I said

yesterday.

"He is a very important player for us, he is playing with

confidence and he did very well today."

In Ronaldo's absence, Di Maria was given a chance to

start and he nearly had the hosts ahead inside five minutes as

he smacked a shot off the underside of the bar.

Benzema then fired wide and Di Maria couldn't beat Marino

when played clean through on goal as Madrid pilled on the

pressure.

And it finally told on 33 minutes when Di Maria burst

down the left and his cross-come-shot was only parried by

Marino into the path of Bale, who headed into the unguarded

net.

Moments later Bale was the provider as his sumptuous

cross left Benzema with an easy task to head home the second.

Madrid continued to dominate after the break and Bale

made it three just after the hour mark when he steered home

Marcelo's cross on his weaker right foot.

And the 24-year-old was left with the easiest of finishes

to round off a perfect hat-trick when he turned home Marcelo's low cross with his left foot.

Earlier, Atletico moved level on points with Barcelona at

the top of the table after goals from Koke and Diego Costa

gave them a hard-fought 2-0 win at Elche.

After a first-half devoid of clear-cut scoring

opportunities, Atletico took the lead on 63 minutes when Koke

bundled home from close range when Manuel Herrera could only parry Raul Garcia's shot from distance.

Costa had endured a quiet afternoon by his standards but

he doubled the advantage 11 minutes later as he raced onto

Adrian Lopez's through ball before slotting home his 18th goal

of the season.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone had recalled six first-team

regulars rested for Tuesday's 1-1 draw away to Zenit St

Petersburg in the Europa League.

However, he recognised that it wasn't until the introduction of Garcia and Adrian in the second-half that Atletico began to take control.

"It is a very important victory against a very difficult

opponent," he said.

"We started well in the first-half but then Elche had two

or three dangerous counter-attacks.

"At half-time we talked and saw that we needed to use the

wings more. The introduction of Raul Garcia and Adrian gave usthe creativity we needed in the tightest moments of the game."

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