Eden Hazard scored one goal and set up another as Real Madrid thrashed Alaves 4-1 on Saturday to ease the pressure on their coach Zinedine Zidane, who was absent after testing positive for Covid-19.
Zidane's position has come under scrutiny again after Wednesday's defeat by third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey but Madrid responded at Mendizorroza without their coach, or their captain Sergio Ramos, who was out with a knee injury.Goals from Casemiro, Karim Benzema and Hazard put Madrid three up at half-time and while Alaves briefly threatened a fightback when Joselu headed in, Benzema added a second to put the result beyond doubt.
The victory is only Real Madrid's second in six matches and leaves them four points behind Atletico Madrid, who have two games in hand and play Valencia at home on Sunday.
Bettoni took off Hazard as Alaves were gaining belief early in the second period but the Belgian enjoyed a positive outing overall that Zidane will hope is the start of a revival. Benzema was the chief beneficiary as Madrid forgot their recent woes in attack.
There were strong performances too from Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric in midfield, the latter providing a handful of supreme passes, one of which led to Benzema's second and Madrid's fourth.
Madrid's first half was probably their best of the season, prompted by an early goal from Casemiro to boost confidence, the Brazilian heading Kroos' corner inside the post.
Hazard scuffed a chance wide but was involved in the second as he tried to flick Lucas Vazquez's pass into Benzema but feathering it was enough, with Benzema given space to fire into the top left-hand corner. Hazard made it three four minutes later.