Gareth Bale scored his first goal in three months for Real Madrid before Cristiano Ronaldo added a penalty to secure a 2-0 win at Eibar on Sunday and end its two-game losing run in the Spanish league.
Bale headed in Luka Modric’s cross two minutes before halftime, and Ronaldo converted a spot kick in the 82nd after a penalty was awarded when substitute Lucas Vazquez went down after slight contact with Dani Garcia.
Madrid’s win at Ipurua Stadium came after the team was heavily criticized for a loss at Sevilla and last weekend’s 4-0 defeat to Barcelona.
Madrid remained in third place, six points behind leader Barcelona and two points behind Atletico Madrid after they both won on Saturday.
‘We arrived here after going through some difficult moments, and we are all aware that we have to improve,’ said Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas. ‘These are three important points that keep us in the title race.’
Ronaldo, who hadn’t escaped criticism from Madrid’s fans for the loss to Barcelona, spent most of the game lamenting missed chances before he got his ninth league goal of the season from the spot.
Until the Portugal forward put the result beyond doubt, the hosts had matched Madrid’s talent with effort and constantly appeared threatening.
Eibar, which was missing injured top scorer Borja ‘Baston’ Gonzalez and suspended forward Sergio ‘Keko’ Gontan, slipped two spots into eighth place after only its third loss in 13 rounds.
‘We played a good game in defence, but we needed to show more fire going forward,’ said Eibar manager Jose Mendilibar.
While under-fire Madrid coach Rafa Benitez got some breathing room, Valencia manager Nuno Espirito Santo is set to step down after his team finished with nine-men in a 1-0 loss at Sevilla.
Espirito Santo said after the match that it ‘has been an honor’ to coach Valencia and that he would meet with the club on Monday to finalize a decision that he said he had already discussed with owner Peter Lim.
Valencia captain Dani Parejo later said on Canal Plus television that Espirito Santo told his players that he was ‘resigning.’
Sevilla’s Sergio Escudero scored the winner in his debut, while Valencia self-destructed as it lost both Joao Cancelo in the first half and Javi Fuego in the second – both for two yellow cards.
Also, Aritz Aduriz scored a hat trick to lead Athletic Bilbao to a 3-0 rout at Rayo Vallecano, moving the Basque visitors up to seventh. With 10 goals this season, Aduriz is third on the highest scorers list behind Barcelona duo Neymar (14) and Luis Suarez (12).
Elsewhere in the capital, Angel Lafita scored one goal and set up Alvaro Vazquez for another as Getafe beat sixth-place Villarreal 2-0 to move away from the relegation zone.
At Eibar, Madrid was without injured defenders Marcelo, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, and Benitez shifted Danilo over from his position on the right side to play at left back.