MADRID: Karim Benzema lived up to all the recent praise from coach Zinedine Zidane to keep champions Real Madrid level top in LaLiga.
Benzema scored one goal and created two in a 3-1 win away to Eibar keeping Madrid apace with neighbours Atletico.
The French forward got Real off to a flying start by scoring in the sixth minute, trapping a chipped pass from Rodrygo with his right foot and calmly finishing into the net with his left for a fifth goal in his last four matches in all competitions.
He was the architect of Madrid’s second goal in the 13th, beating a defender by the byline and cutting the ball back to the edge of the area, where Luka Modric was waiting to slam it high into the net with one touch.
Eibar hit back with a curling long-range strike from Kike Garcia in the 28th minute. However, Zinedine Zidane’s side sealed the points with a Lucas Vazquez goal in stoppage time, created by another fine pass from Benzema, to make it five wins in a row in all competitions.
The win means second-placed Real Madrid join leaders Atletico Madrid on 29 points, although Atletico have two games in hand.
Madrid were lacking a bit of firepower in attack due to the absence of Eden Hazard and Vinicius Jr, but once again Benzema was happy to do most of the heavy lifting in attack.
The man who Zidane described last week as the best French forward of all time combined superbly with Rodrygo for the opening goal, timing his run to perfection to beat the offside trap before producing an exquisite control and finish.
Benzema showed his more generous side to set up Modric for the second goal and should have scored again moments later when he failed to properly connect with a Modric cross.
Eibar improved greatly after the interval and spurned a number of chances to equalise.
Japanese midfielder Takashi Inui latched on to a disastrous pass from Real captain Sergio Ramos but failed to find the target, while his compatriot Yoshinori Muto struck the woodwork soon after.
Eibar then had loud appeals for a penalty turned down when the ball struck the arm of Ramos.
But just as in Madrid’s last victory over Athletic Bilbao, they rode out late pressure and scored right at the end of the game to leave with a 3-1 scoreline that again masked some obvious defensive frailties.