Spain: Real Madrid star Gareth Bale scored twice, and the winner on his return from an injury as Real Madrid came from two goals down to beat Rayo Vallecano 3-2 and at least keep pace in the Liga title race.
Real Madrid visited Vallecas without Cristiano Ronaldo because of a calf strain, but able to win as welcome back Bale included to the starting XI after he missed the 3-0 midweek win over Villarreal.
The team were just a point behind leaders Barcelona going into Saturday’s contest with their neighbors but were quickly given a significant task to lead as Rayo went 2-0 up inside 14 minutes.
Rayo’s striker Adrian Embarba scored the first goal in the seventh minute for Paco Jemez’s hosts who were beaten 10-2 in December’s reverse fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu with Rayo’s first real chance of the game.
The striker Miku, who scored eight goals in La Liga, so far converted a corner to double Rayo’s lead, but a header from Bale hauled Madrid back into the game before Benzema was brought off with an apparent injury, putting his participation in Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg with Manchester City in doubt.
Lucas Vazquez came on for Benzema and levelled matters in the 52nd minute with a fine header of his own, with Bale then pouncing on a stray Rayo pass to surge into space and fire under Rayo goalkeeper Juan Carlos to at least temporarily send Madrid top ahead of Atletico Madrid’s clash with Malaga and Barca’s game against Sporting Gijon.
Ten minutes before the game Bale managed to score as the visitors back into the contest 10 minutes before the break by meeting Toni Kroos’ right-wing corner with an excellent header into the bottom left of the net.
We knew it would be a difficult game because Rayo is good rivals and came out very strongly, but we showed what a great team we are, with great courage, Real Madrid coach added.
Zidane had also rested other stars including Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric from the starting XI, and he said his team’s fighting mentality would hold them in good stead going into their Champions League semifinal challenge.
“We fought hard,” he said. “It’s a difficult game. In the first 15 minutes, we had difficulties, but the game lasts 90 minutes. We started badly, but we finished strongly. It’s a boost for the Champions League.