Bale returns as Madrid come from behind to beat Osasuna
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Bale had been left out completely for Madrid’s previous four matches but the Welshman returned to the squad and the starting line-up at El Sadar, in a surprise show of faith from coach Zinedine Zidane.
A fortuitous deflection meant Bale assisted Isco’s equaliser too before Sergio Ramos put Madrid in front after Unai Garcia had given Osasuna an early lead.
Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic then scored from late breakaways as Real pulled six points clear of Barcelona, who play at Real Betis later on Sunday.
“I’m pleased with all the players and what they’re doing,” said Zidane. “It’s very good to stay in front.”
Barca’s exit in the Copa del Rey overshadowed Madrid’s own shock defeat at home by Real Sociedad in the quarter-finals, a loss that brought a dramatic end to their 21-match unbeaten run.
But Zidane will be relieved to see his team swiftly back on track with a performance full of the kind of resilience that Real’s rivals have so lacked in recent weeks.
Bale also keeps coming back under Zidane and the 30-year-old had chances to add a goal to a spirited display before going off to a decent reception from the away support in the second half.
This was only his third appearance since the turn of the year.
“People want there to be a problem but there isn’t one,” Zidane said. “He did well, offensively and defensively he gave everything. He was a bit short of fitness at the end, so he came off.
“We know the player he is and that he will give a lot from now until the end of the season. Let’s count on Gareth.”
Hazard yet to return
Eden Hazard is still yet to return after recovering from a foot fracture. Real play Manchester City in the Champions League in less than two weeks.
“It wasn’t the time today again and I hope we’ll see him next week,” said Zidane.
Osasuna were the better side in the early stages and took a deserved lead when Unai put his head in front of Casemiro’s dangling foot and steered the ball into the corner.
But the visitors improved as the half wore on and Isco volleyed in an equaliser after Bale attempted to divert Ferland Mendy’s cross, with the ball deflecting kindly into the Spaniard’s path.
Ramos was lucky to escape a red card after sliding in on Ruben Garcia with a high foot and Madrid’s captain took full advantage of his reprieve as he nodded in Casemiro’s looping header to the back post.
Luka Modric had a strong claim for a penalty after he nipped the ball away from Pervis Estupinan in the area before Osasuna enjoyed their most threatening spell.
Inigo Perez’s shot whistled just over and Ruben dragged wide from Nacho Vidal’s pull-back after making space with a neat dummy past Ramos.
Bale went off to applause from the small number of away fans, and Vazquez came on to add a third. Osasuna’s defence were occupied by a Karim Benzema burst and he fed right for Vazquez to drive in. Jovic smashed in a fourth in injury-time.