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Bale's brace keeps Real in hunt for La Liga crown

Updated: 2014-03-31 07:48
By Agence France-Presse in Madrid ( China Daily)

Gareth Bale scored twice as Real Madrid recovered from two consecutive league defeats to beat Rayo Vallecano 5-0 on Saturday.

Atletico Madrid remains top of La Liga as it came from behind away to beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1, while Barcelona rounded off a fine week by overcoming stiff resistance from local rival Espanyol to win 1-0 thanks to a late Lionel Messi penalty.

Victory for all three title contenders means Atletico maintains its one-point lead over Barcelona with Real a further two points back in third.

 Bale's brace keeps Real in hunt for La Liga crown

Real Madrid's Gareth Bale celebrates scoring against Rayo Vallecano during their La Liga match in Madrid on Saturday. Andrea Coams / Reuters

Bale also teed up Cristiano Ronaldo to open the scoring at the Bernabeu as the Portuguese continued his run of scoring in each of his past 10 games for club and country by bursting past two Rayo defenders before slotting low into the corner.

"We reacted well after two defeats," said Real boss Carlo Ancelotti.

"We played well and our attitude was good, which will serve us well for the next game."

It was a far tougher day for Atletico and Barca as they had to grind out difficult wins away from home.

Atletico got off to the worst possible start as Aritz Aduriz cushioned a long ball into Iker Muniain's path and he sent a perfectly weighted lob over Thibaut Courtois and just under the crossbar.

Diego Costa had a chance to reply soon after as he was played in by Koke, but his shot was too close to Gorka Iraizoz and the keeper parried the ball to safety.

The Spanish international made amends with a similar chance nine minutes later when he was again sent through on goal by Koke and this time finished low into the far corner for his 33rd goal of the season.

Atletico got the game's all-important third goal, though, as Costa fed Filipe Luis on the left and his cross was headed home at close range by Koke.

Barcelona was also made to work for the three points as Lionel Messi scored the only goal from the spot 14 minutes from time after Javi Lopez was adjudged to have handled inside the area.

(China Daily 03/31/2014 page23)