Bale double helps Benitez to first Real Madrid triumph
Gareth Bale silenced his critics by scoring twice as Rafael Benitez got his first win as Real Madrid coach with a 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis.
Madrid <g data-gr-id="31">remain</g> two points behind Barcelona as Thomas Vermaelen was the unlikely hero for the European champions as they overcame stiff <g data-gr-id="27">resistence</g> from Malaga to win 1-0 at the Camp Nou on Friday. Benitez’s men had been held to an embarrassing 0-0 draw by newly promoted Sporting Gijon last weekend, but there was to be no repeat as Bale headed home James Rodriguez’s cross inside two minutes.
Rodriguez then fired an audacious free-kick from a <g data-gr-id="34">narrow angle</g> into the far corner of the net to double the advantage seven minutes before the break. Bale turned provider at the start of the second period for Karim Benzema to head home the third before Rodriguez produced another spectacular effort with an overhead kick to make it 4-0.
Betis had a great opportunity to at least mark their visit to the Bernabeu with a consolation when Raphael Varane was penalised for <g data-gr-id="26">upending</g> Jorge Molina. However, Keylor Navas made the most of his opportunity despite the ongoing speculation that Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea could join Madrid in the coming days by diving low to his left to save Ruben Castro’s penalty.
And Bale had the final word with a fierce left-footed effort that clipped the post on its way into the net. At the Camp Nou, Vermaelen succeeded where Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar failed as he fired the only goal of the game past the excellent Carlos Kameni 18 minutes from time.
The Belgian defender endured a nightmare debut campaign with the Catalans last season despite being part of a <g data-gr-id="24">treble winning</g> squad as he was perennially sidelined by injury. “It is a great reward for him for the fight he had last year,” said Barca defender Javier Mascherano. “I am happy for him because last year he couldn’t show his best football.
“The goals from the front three will <g data-gr-id="30">come</g> The team generated a lot of chances, but we didn’t have much luck.”
Neymar was starting for the first time this season after overcoming a bout of the mumps as he was reunited with Messi and Suarez up front. Suarez was the first to have the ball in the net after just four minutes, but his headed effort was ruled out for a foul beforehand by the Uruguayan. Malaga had stunned the Camp Nou with a 1-0 victory last season and they came within inches of taking the lead in style as Juan Carlos’s effort from 60 yards flew just inches over the stranded Claudio Bravo’s goal.