Gareth Bale presses case with brace and other Las Palmas 0-3 Real Madrid talking points

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Gareth Bale smashed in the first for Real Madrid at Las Palmas (PA).

Gareth Bale grabbed a brace and Karim Benzema marked his 400th appearance for Real Madrid with a penalty as they eased to a 3-0 win at Las Palmas in La Liga.

Superstars such as the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo and skipper Sergio Ramos were rested ahead of Tuesday’s quarter-final opener in the Champions League at Juventus. But this didn’t stop Los Blancos upon the resumption of club play after the international break.

Bale charged the length of the half to convert Croatia midfielder Luka Modric’s sublime pass for the first on 26 minutes. Penalties were then exchanged by Benzema and the Welshman either side of half-time.

The victory saw Madrid close on second-placed Atletico, while Las Palmas are now seven points away from safety.

BALE’S A BOLTER

The Wales forward’s sense of timing throughout his career has always been exemplary – and this was another example.

A repeat of the 2016/17 Champions League final looms large for Los Blancos. Bale emphatically pressed his case for inclusion.

His top speed of 31.5 kilometres per hour for the opener evidenced more than 20 injuries in five seasons at Madrid have not been ruinous.

Such threat on the counter-attack will be key at Allianz Stadium. Especially when Juve showed such susceptibility to it in the previous round against Tottenham.

He was then calmness personified from the penalty spot to make it 13 goals in 30 matches in 2017/18.

Bale did not start either leg in the round of 16 versus Paris Saint-Germain, or December’s El Clasico humiliation versus Barcelona. This run of missing the big occasions could yet end in midweek.

BENZEMA’S LAST HURRAH

Respect has to be shown when it is due.

It takes a special talent and remarkable longevity to register 400 appearances during nine years at centre forward for Madrid. Commendations and the receiving of the armband for Benzema – in Ronaldo’s absence, of course – at Eastadio Gran Canaria were richly deserved.

For context, Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas only made 262 run-outs in royal white from 1958-66. Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez played 282 times from 1985-92.

Only six men – including the two above – have scored more times for Madrid than Benzema’s 189. Ronaldo – the version from Brazil – scored 104 times from 177 matches from 2002-07.

But Benzema is not maligned for past achievement. It is the unacceptable present.

A fifth goal in 24 La Liga games in 2017/18 came from the penalty spot. Damning lack of conviction saw him spurn a two-on-one against Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola with a woeful pass to Bale.

The clock continues to tick on his Madrid reign.

ZIDANE SHOULD BE A HAPPY MAN

As warm-ups go, this was a painless one for Los Blancos supremo Zinedine Zidane.

Ahead of a return to Juve, the club where his legend was created as a player, rests were afforded to Ronaldo, indomitable captain Ramos and Germany metronome Toni Kroos – among others.

Centre-back Raphael Varane was retained. He made a leading seven interceptions to ease worries about his culpability in last week 3-2 loss for France against Colombia.

Their La Liga crown is long gone, but signs remain positive that an unprecedented third-successive Champions League triumph – and 13th overall – could yet be harvested from an undulating 2017/18.

Victory in Las Palmas represented a fifth in a row from all competitions. The resurgence continues.

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