Real Madrid provisionally moved five points clear atop La Liga after they breezed to a 3-0 victory over Leganes in Sunday’s early kick-off.
Zinedine Zidane kept faith with the majority of the Real Madrid side that drew at Legia Warsaw, although Karim Benzema missed out due to injury and Luka Modric was named in the squad for the first time since September 27, albeit as a substitute.
Leganes, meanwhile, made their first-ever trip to the Santiago Bernabeu but did so on the back of four straight La Liga defeats.
Nonetheless, they had the game’s first chance as Alexander Szymanowski went down in the box claiming he was upended by Dani Carvajal, only to have his appeals turned down by the referee.
Cristiano Ronaldo suddenly burst into life, latching onto a long ball over the top and taking it down in the Leganes box, but he snatched at the volley and it flew over the bar.
Still, Los Blancos found the breakthrough eight minutes before the break, when Leganes were horribly caught out by a throw from the left.
It fell to Isco, who picked out Bale, the Welshman in turn breaking clear of the visitors’ defence, rounding Jon Serantes and finishing into an empty net.
Bale then grabbed his second in the dying embers of the half as a free kick angled towards Serantes’ far post dropped his way. The forward showed impressive instinct to beat the goalkeeper to the chase and lift the ball over and into the back of the net.
Coming back out for the second half, Bale looked to be in the mood for a few more, first getting in behind and aiming for the bottom-left corner of Serantes’ net, but his finish ended up a whisker wide.
Ronaldo then whipped a cross into the penalty area for Bale to head on target, but Serantes made a fine, two-handed save. The goalkeeper would deny the Welshman twice more, both from headers.
With Madrid’s lead under no imminent threat, Modric made his long-awaited comeback for the final half-hour, but Szymanowski nearly spoiled the occasion when he latched onto a long ball, shook off Carvajal and lifted a finish towards the roof of Navas’ net, only for the Costa Rican to the tip it over.
Sadly for Leganes, however, Morata sprang their offside trap and applied an acute finish past Serantes at his near post to become Los Blancos’ top goalscorer in all competitions with eight.
An injury to substitute Omar Ramos in the final few minutes resulted in the new boys seeing the game out with 10 men, but they at least held out as Madrid made it 23 La Liga matches unbeaten.
Real Madrid 3-0 Leganes
Bale 38, 45, Morata 76
Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Kovacic (Modric 62), Kroos, Isco (James 68); Bale, Morata (Vazquez 81), Ronaldo
Leganes: Serantes; Bustinza, Mantovani (Victor 80), Insua, Rico; Ruben (Luciano 68), Unai; Alberto, Gabriel, Szymanowski; Machis (Omar 55)
Referee: Mateu Lahoz
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