Real Madrid 4-0 Sevilla
Gareth Bale became the leading British goalscorer in La Liga history as Real Madrid thumped Sevilla in an action-packed match at the Bernabeu.
The Welshman twice hit the woodwork and had a strike disallowed before tapping in his 43rd goal in the Spanish top flight, beating Gary Lineker’s tally.
Madrid led through Karim Benzema’s wonderful half-volley, before Sevilla’s Kevin Gameiro missed a penalty.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Jese, either side of Bale’s goal, sealed the win.
However, despite producing one of their best performances in recent weeks, Zinedine Zidane’s side are still 10 points adrift of arch-rivals Barcelona in the title race.
Bale leads Brits abroad in Spain
Wales forward Bale, 26, has become a firm favourite at the Bernabeu since his world record £85m move from Tottenham in September 2013, scoring his 43 league goals at an impressive rate.
Despite suffering with several injuries since arriving, Bale’s strike-rate has not suffered – netting more than once every two games in his 76 La Liga appearances so far.
There had been a slight doubt over whether he would even start Sunday’s game against sixth-placed Sevilla.
Bale will miss Wales’ two friendly games next week because of fitness concerns and the impending birth of his second child.
But not only did he play, he outshone Ronaldo and Benzema in a full-strength Real attack.
Bale looked sharp from the start, his pace and movement causing problems for the Sevilla defence, and teeing up Benzema’s stunning opener with a low cross from the right.
After seeing Sevilla’s inspired keeper Sergio Rico tip his drive onto the post and then wrongly being ruled to have strayed offside when he flicked in Ronaldo’s header, he finally passed ex-Barcelona and England striker Lineker’s tally with a simple finish from six yards after the break.
And when the Welshman was withdrawn after 70 minutes, the Bernabeu crowd responded with a standing ovation.
Not the Real deal in title race
Third-placed Madrid’s chances of winning their first La Liga title since 2012 remain minimal, despite both of the teams above them dropping points over the weekend.
Barca’s draw at Villarreal earlier on Sunday, and second-placed Atletico’s shock loss at Sporting Gijon on Saturday, have given Los Merengues the faintest of renewed hope.
Zidane’s start to managerial life has not been plain sailing, with the Frenchman unable to name a settled side because of injuries and suspension, and struggling to stamp a distinct style on his new team.
However, they blew Sevilla away with a scintillating attacking display.
Away keeper Rico produced a string of top-class saves to keep the scoreline to a minimum at half-time, but was powerless to stop the home team after the break.
True, it may have been different had top scorer Gameiro converted his first-half penalty, or had his early second-half strike not wrongly disallowed for offside, when Real held just a 1-0 lead.
But 26 shots at goal, including a rare missed penalty from Ronaldo which he ballooned over the crossbar, highlighted their superiority as Atletico’s lead was cut to just one point.
After the upcoming international break, Real Madrid will focus on the small matter of El Clasico.
Zidane faces Barcelona for the first time as manager when he takes Los Merengues to the Nou Camp on Saturday, 2 April (19:30 BST).
What Zidane said
“Our objective in the league is to overtake Atletico. Now we are closer,” said the Frenchman afterwards.
“Clasicos are always special. It was important to get a win before. We are ready. It will be a great game.”