Two second-half headers and an injury time third from Karim Benzema handed Real Madrid a much needed 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao that closed the gap from second placed Atletico Madrid to four points in La Liga.
A largely uneventful opening to the match saw the hosts very eager to play down the flanks, bending crosses to the far post in what appeared to be a deliberate ploy imposed by Zinedine Zidane.
With nothing left to play for this season, the match failed to spark into any life and Madrid struggled to penetrate the Athletic defence, with plenty of free kicks bringing the home side no joy in a niggly first half that saw no less than 14 fouls.
A brilliant late interception from Jesus Vallejo denied Athletic the opener, a tackle that prompted a swift Madrid counter attack resulting in Karim Benzema meeting Marco Asensio’s left wing cross to hand the home side the lead just two minutes after the restart.
Benzema was inches away from scoring his team’s second with a shot that is dragged past the far post as the home side responded to a poor first half showing. The points were sealed with 15 minutes remaining as Benzema rose highest to head home from Luka Modric’ corner before completing his hat trick in added time when the Athletic keeper was caught out of his net to move Zidane’s side to within four points of Atletico in La Liga.