Bale hat-trick helps Real Madrid near summit

Gareth Bale scores three and sets up team's fourth as they close the gap on Barcelona, but Atletico also triumph.

    Bale hat-trick helps Real Madrid near summit
    Atletico Madrid's Brazilian forward Diego da Silva Costa celebrates after scoring against Elche [AFP]

    The World's most expensive footballer Gareth Bale has scored his first hat-trick for Real Madrid cruised to a 4-0 win over Valladolid in the Spanish league.

    The Welshman also set up a fourth goal on Saturday to make sure Real Madrid did not miss injured star Cristiano Ronaldo.

    With Ronaldo out nursing a hurt hamstring for a second straight game, Bale took up the scoring duties in the 32nd minute then found Karim Benzema to make it 2-0 four minutes later.

    Bale got his second in the 64th and third in the 89th to give him five goals since Ronaldo was sidelined.

    Madrid's fourth league win in a row following its loss at Barcelona lifted them three points from the defending champions and Atletico Madrid, who won 2-0 at Elche.

    Elsewhere in La Liga, Atletico Madrid moved level on points with Barcelona when they beat Elche 2-0 in their away win.

    Koke's tap-in put them in front just after an hour and Diego Costa scored Atletico's second. The striker now has 15
    goals for the season.

    If I could, I would sign off to win the next 20 and lose one.

    Gerardo Martino, Barcelona coach

    Atletico are now on 40 points but remain behind Barca on goal difference.

    "The key is to play each game like it was a final," Koke said.

    "We have to keep going forward step by step."

    Villarreal will be ruing a missed opportunity to strengthen their position in the top four.

    Bruno put the hosts 1 up against Malaga in the 32nd minute.

    But Weligton scored deep in injury time to rescue a point for Malaga, ending a two game losing streak.

    Barcelona can reclaim sole possession of the league lead from Atletico at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

    The Catalans will be missing defenders Carles Puyol and Dani Alves for their Spanish league game at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

    The league leaders said on Saturday that Puyol would not travel after picking up a knee injury and Alves  was sidelined because of pain in his right leg.

    Barcelona has defender Adriano returning from injury, while forward Lionel Messi and fullback Jordi Alba are still injured.

    Barcelona lost their first game of the season under new coach Gerardo Martino at Ajax on Tuesday.

    Martino downplayed his first setback by saying it was only one game.

    "If I could, I would sign off to win the next 20 and lose one," Martino said.

    Barcelona have 16 wins, four draws and one loss in all competitions this season.

    Bilbao will be without striker Aritz Aduriz.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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