Madrid: Gareth Bale deputised ably for the injured Cristiano Ronaldo with a wonder strike from 35 yards as Real Madrid kept up the pressure on Atletico Madrid and Barcelona with a 4-0 win away to Real Sociedad.
Real were leading 1-0 thanks to Asier Illarramendi’s opener when Bale pounced on an error from Sociedad ’keeper Claudio Bravo to register his 18th goal of the season with a sweet left-footed striker 25 minutes from time before Pepe and Alvaro Morata rounded off the scoring.
Without World Player of the Year Ronaldo due to a knee problem, Madrid took their time to get going in San Sebastian and could have been behind when Antoine Griezmann’s header flashed just over the bar midway through the first-half.
However, Carlo Ancelotti’s men went in front the first time they really threatened the Sociedad goal as Bale fed Karim Benzema and when Bravo could only parry the Frenchman’s effort, Illarramendi was on hand to slot home against his former club.
Sergio Ramos and Benzema then struck the bar as Real started the second-half with greater intent.
Bale killed the game off as a contest when he collected Bravo’s errant clearance and thumped the ball into the bottom corner before the Chilean international could get himself back into position.
Pepe added a third as he turned home Ramos’ knockdown before substitute Alvaro Morata broke clear to make it 4-0.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti praised his players for their performance against Real Sociedad and vowed to fight for the title until the last weeks of the season.
Midfielder Illaramendi, who was roundly whistled by the Sociedad fans every time he touched the ball, said in an interview with Spanish broadcaster: “It’s always special to return home.”
“We found it tough in the first half but the match opened up in the second half and we made the most of the extra space.
“There are not many games left and we have to win them all if we are to have a chance.”
Ancelotti said he is delighted with the way his team are playing at the moment and praised them for their fighting spirit.
“The victory strengthens us and the team. We will fight until the last game,” the Italian told reporters after the game.
“I appreciate the whole game because we played very well, very intelligently. I’m very happy.
“It wasn’t easy but I have a team that likes to fight. I’m proud to coach this team. Gareth Bale is comfortable on the left and he and Cristiano often change positions.
“We had to avoid injury so I rested Cristiano. My second concern was the physical aspect of the team. “We defended very well and had to be very organised.” (Agencies)