Bale returns as Madrid come from behind to beat Osasuna
MADRID: Gareth Bale returned to the team and Real Madrid came back to beat Osasuna on Sunday as a 4-1 victory in Pamplona strengthened their hold on top spot in La Liga.
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.” – AFP