MADRID: A Marco Asensio-inspired Real Madrid crushed Eibar 3-0 to close the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to five points on Sunday, with Karim Benzema starting on the bench.

Asensio forced an own goal and scored the second as Real moved up to third place with 20 points, one behind second-placed Valencia and one ahead of Atletico Madrid, who beat Celta Vigo 1-0 away thanks to a Kevin Gameiro strike.

Cristiano Ronaldo is expected to pick up FIFA’s ‘The Best’ award in London for his goals in helping Real land a Champions League and La Liga double for the first time in 59 years earlier in the year.

Yet, the Portuguese’s off colour La Liga form this season continued as it was Asensio who shone as his partner up front.

The 21-year-old got Real going in the 18th minute when his well-placed cross meant for Sergio Ramos was headed into the net by Eibar defender Paulo Oliveira.

Asensio put the result beyond doubt 10 minutes later at the Santiago Bernabeu when he drove Francisco “Isco” Alarcon’s cross under goalkeeper Marco Dmitrovic.

Marcelo rounded off the victory in the 82nd after substitute Benzema set him up.

Following a rocky start with only two wins in the first five rounds, Zinedine Zidane’s team has now won four straight in the league.

“Not everything went perfectly, but we are happy for the win,” Zidane said. “It was important to get the three points and to score that many goals.”

Earlier, Gameiro’s strike earned Atletico the points in Galicia where Celta, in 10th spot, impressed but could not break down Diego Simeone’s typically rock-solid backline.

Gameiro blasted home in the 28th minute from close range, against the run of play, after a corner bounced to him fortuitously.

“I’ve come through a difficult time,” Gameiro, who missed the start of the season through injury, told BeIN Sports Spain. “Now that I am able to play, I can help the team and score goals.”

Leganes moved up to fifth with a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao thanks to a brilliant individual goal from Claudio Beauvue, while Villarreal thrashed Las Palmas 4-0 to go sixth, sending the islanders down to third-bottom.

Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2017