Real Madrid have found their way back to victory with a 2-0 win over Levante on Sunday while Gareth Bale went some way towards silencing his critics as he scored both goals.
Real had fumbled during their previous three matches, with the Santiago Bernabeu fans reacting furiously as they scrapped past Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday despite a 4-3 defeat on the night.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti has had his position called into question in the Spanish press, while Bale – without a goal in nine matches before Sunday – also found his recent performances to be under heavy scrutiny.
Despite once again enduring a mixed reaction from the home support, Bale was influential throughout an impressive first-half performance and broke the deadlock after 19 minutes before turning home Cristiano Ronaldo’s strike as the interval approached.
The result means Real head into next weekend’s pivotal Clasico showdown at leaders Barcelona just a point behind their great rivals at the top of the table.
A terrible display against Schalke in midweek costs Iker Casillas being dropped to the bench and Keylor Navas starting in goal, with the Costa Rica international a virtual spectator as Real dominated from the first whistle against his former club.
Bale almost fired an instant riposte to his critics by brilliantly controlling the ball with his chest and knee before hooking a volley over in the second minute.
The Wales winger and Karim Benzema combined for Ronaldo to hit the post shortly afterwards amid relentless early Real pressure.
Benzema had the ball in the net after 16 minutes from an offside position when Diego Marino unconvincingly parried a shot by Luka Modric – the midfielder impressing on his first start since suffering a thigh injury in November.
Real’s front three were all involved when the opening goal arrived: Benzema crossed from the right for Ronaldo to have an acrobatic attempt cleared off the line, only as far as Bale, who blasted home right-footed.
He peeled away covering his ears and kicked the corner flag in a fired-up celebration.
While Bale was the architect on that occasion, he did not know too much about his second goal three minutes before half-time when Ronaldo drove Dani Carvajal’s cutback goalwards and the shot decisively clipped the ex-Tottenham man’s instep.
Bizarrely, the announcement of Bale as the goalscorer was greeted with boos from a section of the Real support.
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