Real Madrid continue to close the gap at the top of LaLiga
Goals from Karim Benzema, Vinicius and Mariano were enough to see off a well-drilled Alavés side as they close in on Atlético Madrid and Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.
Real Madrid 3-0 Alavés: match report
Real Madrid continue to close the gap on Barcelona and Atlético Madrid at the top of LaLiga with a 3-0 victory over Alavés on Sunday night. It was their fourth win in a row and with games against Atlético and Barcelona coming in the league in the next month along with a Copa Clásico and Ajax in the Champions League, their form could not be returning at a better time.
Alavés continue to stumble but their performance at the Santiago Bernabéu on Sunday did not necessarily merit a 3-0 beating. They were organised and frustrated Real Madrid for long spells but they lacked the finishing touches to really make a game of it.
Gareth Bale returned as Vinicius, Benzema and the Welsh attacker started together for the first time. Vinicius was deployed on the left with Bale taking up the right flank as Benzema made things happen in the middle.
It was the French attacker who broke the deadlock after half an hour when Sergio Reguilón, making his fourth sucessive start in the league linked with Vinicius before send a low ball across the box. Benzema tapped home as he continued his fine run of form.
Alavés tried to respond but couldn't before the break and it was about to get a lot worse for the team who had to travel by bus from Vitoria given the snow in the northern region of Spain. It did get better for a spell though.
A couple of efforts from Jonatahn Calleri might have ended differently on another night as they tried to take advantage of Real Madrid's ambitions to get a second. They were having some luck on the counter as Real Madrid had their sights set on finishing the tie with Barcelona to come on Wednesday in the Copa.
They couldn't finish though and it has been a problem for them this season, which has become more glaring since the exit of Ibai Goméz.
The score remained 1-0 until the 80th minute when Vinicius, who would go off later to a rapturous round of applause from the freezing fans at the Bernabéu, recieved the ball from an Asensio cross and he slotted it home to break the game and Alavés spirit. Where there once was hope now lay 10 minutes where they would huff and puff to no avail.
As Real Madrid continue to improve, their injury list is shrinking too. Mariano returned to the squad and the field for a cameo in place of Benzema and he made his mark on the game too.
This time it was Odriozola from the right, who crossed it into the middle, only to see Mariano launch himself at the ball. His diving header in off the post made it 3-0.
They have two games against Barcelona, two against Ajax and a Madrid derby in the coming weeks but their form and confidence is returning at the right time. Alavés' early good promise, however, is disappearing rapidly.
Real Madrid vs Alavés live online: match updates
Real Madrid vs Alavés live online: match preview
Real Madrid enter into a crucial month in their season with a home game against Alavés on Sunday night. Once considered top-four contenders, Alavés have dropped off in recent weeks with no win in three against Girona, Getafe and Rayo Vallecano. Real Madrid have Barcelona twice, Atlético Madrid and Ajax twice in the coming weeks with a LaLiga Clásico following at the start of March but they can't take their eye off the ball after a resurgence over the last couple of weeks.
The home side have won four in a row and have been rewarded with a Copa del Rey semi-final along with a three points lead for third place ahead of Sevilla (with a game to play). On top of all that good news on the field, their injury list is getting short by the day too. Marco Asensio is back and Santiago Solari's options in attack are growing too with Gareth Bale, Vinicius and Benzema vying for time. Benzema, the bonafide starter up front, is possibly in the form of his life with five goals in three games.
Toni Kroos is rested, however, and Dani Carvajal and Raphael will get a rest too given their suspsensions. They will get clean slates for the Atlético game while Sergio Ramos, who hurt his knee against Espanyol last weekend, is back and is one yellow away from a suspension. Luka Modric and Nacho are on the same thin ice as their captain and they will have to thread carefully.
Alavés are without Rodrigo Ely, Darko Brasanac and Antonio Sivera and they also can't call on new signing Takashi Inui as he is with Japan at the Asian Cup. He was signed as a replacement for Ibai Goméz, who signed for Athletic Club during the January transfer window. They need creativity in his absence if they are to score but they might play a more defensive style in the hope of getting something out of this game.