Bale hattrick provides flying start to Zidane’s coaching pursuit
Zinedine Zidane got off to a flying start as Real Madrid coach when Gareth Bale hit a hat-trick in a 5-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday after a Lionel Messi treble had fired Barcelona to the top of La Liga.
Zidane, a former Real and France midfielder who took over from the sacked Rafa Benitez on Monday, was given a hero’s welcome by his adoring fans at the Bernabeu and the team responded with a dominant performance, with Karim Benzema scoring twice, against ninth-placed Deportivo.
A sparkling Messi had earlier inspired Barca to a 4-0 success at home to struggling Granada that lifted the Spanish and European champions above Atletico Madrid into top spot at the halfway stage of the campaign.
Barca, who have a game in hand over their main rivals, lead on 42 points, with Atletico a point behind in second ahead of their game at fifth-placed Celta Vigo (31 points) on Sunday.
Real have 40 points in third spot, four ahead of fourth-placed Villarreal (36) who host Sporting Gijon on Sunday.
Sevilla (29) moved up to sixth after French forward Kevin Gameiro's double secured a 2-0 victory against seventh-placed Athletic Bilbao (28) at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Sevilla's stuttering local rivals Real Betis fell 1-0 at Getafe, piling pressure on under-fire coach Pepe Mel.
The Real faithful gave Zidane a rousing reception before kickoff, in marked contrast to their recent treatment of the unpopular Benitez, who was abruptly discarded after less than half a season in charge.
Zidane had in-form compatriot Benzema to thank for opening the scoring in the 15th minute when he cleverly backheeled a Sergio Ramos effort past Deportivo goalkeeper German Lux.
Bale, who scored four goals against Rayo Vallecano last month, made it 2-0 seven minutes later when he headed in a Dani Carvajal centre and the Wales winger crossed for Cristiano Ronaldo to nod against a post six minutes before halftime.
Ronaldo turned provider four minutes into the second half and Bale clipped the Portugalforward's low cross firmly past Lux to make it 3-0.
The world's most expensive player completed his hat-trick, his third for Real, in the 63rd minute when he powered another header into the net from a Toni Kroos corner.
Bale is the first player in La Liga to score two trebles this season and the fans gave him a huge send-off when he was replaced by James Rodriguez with around 15 minutes left.
Ronaldo squandered a host of chances before Benzema crashed home a shot in added time.
Amazing return to the Bernabeu following the New Year,” Bale posted on his Twitter feed along with a picture of him with Zidane.