Karim Benzema appeared unaffected by France snubbing him for Euro 2016 as he scored and provided two assists in Real Madrid’s 5-1 Liga win against Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
The French Football Federation confirmed on Wednesday Benzema would not play a part in the European Championship on home soil this year due to his involvement in an ongoing legal investigation into an alleged plot to blackmail Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena, and he wasted no time in reminding the decision makers of what they would be missing.
The 28-year-old produced a brilliant display to help Zinedine Zidane’s side follow up qualifying for the Champions League semi-finals by piling the pressure on Liga leaders Barcelona – who entertain Valencia on Sunday – by closing the gap at the top to one point.
After Cristiano Ronaldo had struck the upright, Benzema opened the scoring on the half-hour mark despite not making the cleanest of contact with an excellent delivery from James Rodriguez.
The former Lyon striker then played a one-two with Isco to enable the midfielder to add the second, and facilitated a rapid counter-attack for Gareth Bale to slot home the third before being replaced by Jese Rodriguez in the 67th minute.
Pablo Sarabia pulled one back for Getafe, but they were unable to avoid a 13th Liga match without a win in Jose Esnaider’s first game at the helm as James and Ronaldo both found the net in the closing stages to complete a seventh successive top-flight win for Madrid.
Zidane rested Casemiro, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric but his side were on the front foot from kick-off, with James forcing Getafe goalkeeper Vicente Guaita down to his left to keep out a 20-yard strike after just four minutes.
Ronaldo hit the base of the post with a powerful drive with 16 minutes on the clock as, despite dominating possession, Madrid were limited to efforts from outside the area.
That was until James curled a delightful cross in from the right wing and Benzema, timing his run to perfection, swept the ball into the bottom corner unchallenged for his 22nd Liga goal of the season – his best return since signing in 2009.
Guaita denied Ronaldo one minute later, but Madrid doubled their advantage before half-time when Isco stabbed the ball beneath the onrushing keeper after a neat move with Benzema.
The French striker laid on the third for his side, releasing the breaking Bale, who surged into the box and guided the ball into the far corner to surpass his previous best of 15 Liga goals in one campaign.
Keylor Navas did well to stop Sarabia converting an indirect free-kick from six yards after he picked up a touch from Marcelo inside the box soon after.
Sarabia’s endeavour was rewarded when his 20-yard effort found the back of the net via a deflection off Pepe in the 83rd minute, but James showed supreme composure to restore the three-goal cushion with two minutes remaining.
Ronaldo rounded off an emphatic win in second-half stoppage time by adding the finishing touch to Jese’s pass in front of an open goal, keeping Madrid’s title tilt on course and Getafe rooted to the foot of the table.
Key Opta stats:
– Gareth Bale has scored in nine of his last 13 league games.
– The last time Getafe conceded at least three goals at the Coliseum was also against Real Madrid, in January 2015.
– Karim Benzema had not assisted twice in a single game since December 12, 2014 against Almeria.
– BBC (Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo) have scored 69 goals in La Liga this season, the same as MSN (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) for Barcelona.