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Bale returns as Real Madrid stay top and Messi grabs hat-trick of assists in Barca win

Zidane’s side came from behind to hammer Osasuna 4-1.

Gareth Bale is challenged by Pervis Estupinan of Osasuna.
Gareth Bale is challenged by Pervis Estupinan of Osasuna.
Image: SIPA USA/PA Images

Updated Feb 9th 2020, 10:48 PM

GARETH BALE CAME back into 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 fortuitious 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 breaks as Madrid pulled six points clear of Barcelona, who play away at Real Betis later on Sunday. 

Barca’s exit in the Copa del Rey overshadowed Madrid’s own shock defeat at home to 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 Madrid’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.

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 Madrid 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. 

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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.

Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick of assists as Barcelona ended a tumultuous week with a pulsating 3-2 La Liga win over Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin tonight. The Catalan giants were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao in midweek, while Messi has been involved in a public spat with technical director Eric Abidal after he questioned the work ethic of some players under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

Quique Setien’s side got off to a terrible start against his former employers, with Sergio Canales’ penalty putting the hosts ahead early on, but a wonderful goal from Frenkie de Jong pulled the champions level soon after. Nabil Fekir – who was later dismissed for two bookable offences in quick succession – restored the hosts’ advantage with a fine finish, before Sergio Busquets scored a second equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Clement Lenglet then headed home Messi’s free-kick 18 minutes from time to ensure Barca remain three points behind leaders Real Madrid after their 4-1 win at Osasuna earlier in the day, although the Frenchman blotted his copybook by picking up a second yellow card soon after Fekir’s dismissal. Betis opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Canales stroking home from the penalty spot after Lenglet had handled Fekir’s strike inside the penalty area.

Their lead lasted just three minutes, though, as De Jong chested down Messi’s superb ball over the top and volleyed past Joel Robles from six yards. Fekir rounded off a swift counter-attacking move with a fine low strike from 18 yards past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to restore Betis’ advantage just before the half-hour mark. Messi was again the provider for Barca’s equaliser in first-half stoppage time, his deep free-kick turned in by Busquets from eight yards.

Messi was twice denied by Robles after the interval but he was central to Barca’s winner, floating in a free-kick that was headed home by a towering Lenglet. Fekir saw red 14 minutes from time, picking up quickfire bookings for a foul on Lenglet and dissent, while Barca’s French defender also received his marching orders three minutes later after catching Joaquin.

© – AFP, 2020

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