Football: Benzema hat-trick helps Real back to winning ways in La Liga, Guedes double lifts Valencia's top-4 push

Real Madrid's forward Karim Benzema (centre) duels for the ball against Athletic Club's defender Yeray Alvarez (right) during the Spanish LaLiga match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain, on April 21, 2019.
Real Madrid's forward Karim Benzema (centre) duels for the ball against Athletic Club's defender Yeray Alvarez (right) during the Spanish LaLiga match at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain, on April 21, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

(REUTERS) - Karim Benzema netted a second-half hat-trick as Real Madrid got back to winning ways with a 3-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in La Liga on Sunday (April 21).

The Frenchman increased his tally to 21 league goals this season - the first time he has achieved the total since 2015 - and now has 10 goals in his last seven appearances for the club.

Victory left Real, who had drawn with Leganes in their last outing, in third place on 64 points. They are 13 points behind leaders Barcelona and four behind city rivals Atletico.

Zinedine Zidane once again left Gareth Bale on the bench, with Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio supporting Benzema in attack.

They initially cut frustrated figures throughout an opening period of few chances, with the Bernabeu crowd voicing their frustration.

However, the fans were soon serenading Benzema two minutes after the break when he opened the scoring.

Jesus Vallejo produced a brilliant last-ditch tackle on Inaki Williams and Real sprung a trademark counter attack, with Asensio leading the charge before centring for Benzema to nod in.

He doubled his tally 15 minutes from the end, heading in Luka Modric's corner after a calamitous misjudgement from Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerin.

Substitute Brahim Diaz went close for the home side in the closing stages before Bale chipped a one-on-one over the bar.

The Welshman made amends moments later, latching onto another error from Herrerin, who had rushed out of his box in an attempt to clear the through ball.

His weak header dropped at the feet of Bale, who teed up Benzema to complete his hat-trick by firing into an empty net.

Bilbao have 46 points and stay seventh, six points behind Sevilla who are in the final Europa League spot.

In the later game, a brilliant double from Goncalo Guedes saw Valencia move into fifth place, as they recorded an impressive 2-1 victory at Real Betis to be in closer contention for the fourth and final Champions League place.

Guedes struck almost identical efforts from outside the box either side of half-time to move Marcelino's side to 52 points, leapfrogging Betis's local rivals Sevilla in the process on goal difference.

Getafe, who earlier on Sunday beat Sevilla 3-0, currently occupy fourth place with 54 points.

Valencia, who have lost just one of their last 22 games in all competitions and have reached the semi-finals of the Europa League and Copa del Rey, were good value for the victory even though they ended with 10 men after the dismissal of Rodrigo.