Goals from Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo helped a below-par Real Madrid see off Eibar 2-0 in Sunday’s La Liga encounter at the Ipurua.
After taking a Clasico beating last weekend and conceding three to Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, Madrid were in need of a response, but laboured to victory against the Basque side with Ronaldo struggling badly in front of goal before he netted a late penalty.
The Portugal star was indecisive when one-on-one with Asier Riesgo in the first half, but Bale gave Madrid the advantage before the break when he headed home a corner from Luka Modric.
Ronaldo wasted another chance when clear on goal after the break, somehow blasting wide, but finally got his name on the scoresheet with eight minutes to play, securing a win that will do little to silence coach Rafael Benitez’s detractors.
Eibar threatened a number of times via Sergi Enrich, but the hosts failed to fully test Keylor Navas and were consigned to a first home defeat in five.
Indeed, Enrich had the game’s first opportunity, but his deflected 25-yarder was comfortable for Navas.
Ronaldo ought to have broken the deadlock as the visitors went straight up the other end, but Riesgo smothered his effort one-on-one, with Mateo Kovacic wildly blasting the rebound over the crossbar.
Danilo curled a weak shot from the left-hand side of the area that did little to worry Riesgo and Eibar were giving as good as they got, Takashi Inui cutting inside from the left and drawing a save from Navas, who did well to quickly get back to his feet and beat Enrich to the rebound.
Madrid eventually went a goal up shortly before the half-time whistle. Modric worked a short corner with James Rodriguez to work space for a whipped cross and Bale beat his marker in the air before heading home his third La Liga goal of the season.
Bale nearly doubled the lead barely a minute later when he superbly controlled a long pass before unleashing a low shot toward the far corner, only for Riesgo to deny him with a smart save.
Enrich remained fiercely committed up top for Eibar and had a chance as he got ahead of Pepe shortly after the restart, but he could not keep his effort down under pressure, with centre-back Aleksandar Pantic also turning the home team’s next chance off target.
Ronaldo felt he should have been awarded a penalty after a challenge from David Junca, but referee Jesus Gil waved play on and the Portugal star’s frustrating game went on as Lucas sent him running through on goal, but he could only fire into the side netting from a narrow angle.
But Ronaldo was finally able to celebrate after he rolled home from the spot after Lucas was felled, his 234th La Liga goal drawing him into joint-third with Madrid legend Hugo Sanchez.
Key Opta stats:
– Gareth Bale has had a hand in 76 goals in his 102 competitive games with Real Madrid (42 goals, 34 assists).
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 48 penalties in La Liga, at least 11 more than any other player in the top five European leagues (since 2009-10).
– Real Madrid are the only side to have scored from a set-piece situation in a La Liga game against Eibar this season.
– Luka Modric had 112 touches, his best tally in a competitive game for Real Madrid this season.