MADRID: Gareth Bale struck a hat-trick as Zinedine Zidane enjoyed a winning start to his career as Real Madrid boss with a 5-0 rout of Deportivo la Coruna on Saturday.
Bale took his tally to 10 goals in his last seven games with two excellent headers either side of a composed left-footed finish after Karim Benzema had opened the scoring before the Frenchman also smashed home the fifth in stoppage time.
Victory moves Zidane’s men back to within two points of leaders Barcelona, who were 4-0 winners over Granada earlier in the day.
Bale was rumoured to have been disappointed by Rafael Benitez’s unceremonious sacking after just seven months in charge on Monday.
However, there were no signs of discontent from the former Spurs man as he continued arguably his best run of form since joining Madrid three years ago.
In stark contrast to Benitez’s final days in charge, there was an air of optimism around a packed Bernabeu as the fans braved the freezing January temperatures.
Zidane’s name was chanted before kick-off, whilst on the big screens a video recalled his most glorious moments as a Madrid player, including his sumptious volley to win the 2002 Champions League final.
Deportivo had only been beaten three times this season prior to their visit to the capital, and threatened to spoil the party early on as Keylor Navas was forced to produce a vital save to prevent the on-form Lucas Perez opening the scoring 11 minutes in.
Zidane insisted earlier in the week that he would stick loyally by the star front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale, and they once again provided the cutting edge in front of goal.
Madrid also got a break with the opening goal when Benzema flicked home his 17th goal in 18 games this season from Sergio Ramos’s scuffed shot despite Deportivo cries for offside.
Once ahead, Madrid looked far more dominant and doubled their advantage seven minutes later when Bale stooped to head home Dani Carvajal’s cross.
Having seen his strike partners find the net, Ronaldo obsessively went in search of a goal of his own as he flashed a shot inches wide of German Lux’s far post.
The World Player of the Year was then furious with himself as he headed against the post from Bale’s inch-perfect cross just before the break.
The roles were reversed four minutes after the interval as this time it was Ronaldo who squared for Bale and he made no mistake with his side-footed finish into the bottom corner.
Having waited over two years for his second Madrid hat-trick when he hit four against Rayo Vallecano just before Christmas, Bale then completed his second hat-trick in four games with another towering header from Toni Kroos’s corner.
Bale was given a standing ovation of his own when he was replaced by Jese Rodriguez moments later.
The only thing missing on a perfect night for Madrid was a Ronaldo goal. The Portuguese was left frustrated once more in stoppage time as he failed to take Jese’s cross in stride, but the loose ball fell to Benzema who fired home off the underside of the bar.