Thursday, February 29, 2024

Hazard stars as Madrid win 4-1


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BARCELONA, Jan 24: Eden Hazard scored and set up Karim Benzema for his first of two goals as Real Madrid eased to a 4-1 victory at Alavés in the Spanish league, ending a winless run in a match that coach Zinedine Zidane missed after he contracted the coronavirus.
Hazard grazed a long pass to redirect the ball to Benzema, who doubled the lead for Madrid in the 41st after Casemiro had headed in the 15th-minute opener on Saturday.
Belgium forward Hazard scored just his third goal of the season in first-half injury time to build a 3-0 lead at the break.
Joselu Mato pulled one back for Alavés on the hour-mark.
Benzema made it a brace in the 70th after Luka Modric played him clear on the break.
Second-place Madrid reduced the gap to leader Atlético Madrid to four points.
Atlético has two games in hand, starting with its home match against Valencia on Sunday.
The promising performance by Hazard comes amid growing impatience shown by Madrid’s fans, and some unfavourable comparisons in the Spanish sports media to former star Gareth Bale, who was also injury prone.
Hampered by injuries, the 30-year-old Hazard has not lived up to the club-record 100 million euros (USD 113 million) fee plus add-ons two seasons ago.
The win over struggling Alavés came after Madrid drew 0-0 at Osasuna in the league, lost to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey semifinals, and was dumped from the Copa del Rey in a 2-1 loss at third-tier Alcoyano, which scored the winner with 10 men.
Alavés, which was celebrating the 100th anniversary of its foundation, was left one point above the relegation zone in a third consecutive loss under new coach Abelardo Fernández.
Eye on the prize
Youssef En-Nesyri scored a hat trick to lead Sevilla to a 3-0 win over Cádiz, lifting the Andalusian side past Barcelona and into third place. En-Nesyri has 12 goals in 19 rounds and leads the league scoring charts.
Joaquín’s comeback
At age 39, Joaquín Sánchez proved he can still turn games around for Real Betis. He came on in the 78th and set up one goal before scoring a stoppage-time equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Sociedad.
Coach Imanol Alguacil slung his coat into the dugout after seeing his team squander a two-goal lead and an overall dominant performance because of Betis’ inspired final push led Joaquín.
Sociedad will have a chance to avenge the loss on Tuesday when it visits Betis in their round-of-16 clash in the Copa del Rey.
Also, fifth-place Villarreal pulled level with Barcelona on points after a 0-0 draw with Huesca. Barcelona is ahead of Villarreal on goal difference. (AP)


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