Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale celebrates scoring one of his three goals for Real Madrid against Valladolid. Reuters

Gareth Bale struck his first hat-trick for Real Madrid to help his side close the gap on Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the Spanish Primera Division standings with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Real Valladolid at the Bernabeu. In the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale continued to flourish since his return to fitness and put his side in front in the 33rd minute with a routine header. He then played the role of creator to impressively set up Karim Benzema to double the lead just three minute later. And Bale then made sure of the victory before completing his treble with two further straightforward finishes.

Madrid dominated proceedings from start to finish, with their pressing without the ball giving struggling Valladolid no opportunity to get into the game. On the ball, Xabi Alonso was again the hub for Madrid, alongside Luka Modric in the middle, while Isco, Bale and especially Angel di Maria threatened in behind Benzema.

With their fifth straight victory in La Liga, Madrid are now truly finding their feet under Carlo Ancelotti. The vital victory means they stay in touch with those above them, just three points behind Atletico and Barcelona, albeit with Barcelona still to play on Sunday.

Against a Valladolid side struggling just outside the relegation zone, Madrid made easy work of things following their midweek destruction of Galatasaray in the Champions League. Di Maria was heavily involved early on from his less familiar left-sided role in the absence of Ronaldo. The Argentine came agonizingly close to putting Madrid in front in just the sixth minute when he chested down a half-cleared free-kick 25 yards out and unleashed a powerful strike that smashed back off the crossbar and bounced to safety.

As well as striking another volley on target, he also produced a fine cross from which Benzema was just unable to hook a volley on target. There was no surprise then when it was Di Maria who played a major role in Madrid going in front.

Di Maria’s cross, or perhaps ambitious shot, was parried straight out into the danger zone by Diego Marino in the Valladolid goal and onto the waiting head of Bale who duly converted to get on the score sheet for the third game in succession.

Just three minutes later the score was doubled. Bale got a team-high sixth assist of the season after taking advantage of the space afforded him coming in from the right to float a perfect pass onto the head of Benzema who finished well to continue his rich vein of form in front of goal.

With Madrid’s high pressing, Valladolid had struggled to get any kind of foothold in the contest never mind posing a serious threat to Diego Lopez’s goal. The visitors’ one opening of any kind in the first 45 minutes came when Javi Guerra got a volley all wrong at the far post to send the ball high into the stands.

There looked no way back for Valladolid after the interval, especially when Madrid began the second half with the same intensity as the first. The hosts had already had a perfectly goal wrongly ruled for offside when they got their third on 64 minutes to put the result beyond doubt. Bale’s through ball got Marcelo in behind down the left and when the full-back’s cross failed to be cleared adequately by Jesus Rueda, the Welshman was on hand for the simplest of finishes into the corner with his right foot.

With the result secure, Madrid played out the remaining minutes in comfort. The two young substitutes Alvaro Morata and Jese both forced saves from Marino, but the final word was saved for Bale. The fitness concerns now a thing of the past, Bale got his seventh goal for the club he was so desperate to join in the summer by turning Marcelo’s low cross into the net from close range.

Real Madrid - Valladolid 1-0 Gol Gareth Bale... by realmadridplay
Real Madrid - Valladolid 2-0 Gol Benzema 36' by realmadridplay
Real Madrid - Valladolid 3-0 Gol Bale 63' by realmadridplay
Real Madrid - Valladolid 4-0 Gol Bale 89' by realmadridplay