Karim Benzema grabbed a hat trick as Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, extending his scoring run since the return Zinedine Zidane.
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Karim Benzema hit a hat trick to lead Real Madrid to a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish league on Sunday, extending his scoring run since the return of coach Zinedine Zidane.
After not finding the net in Zidane's first game back, Benzema has struck eight times in five matches.
The French striker stands out as the only Madrid player who is playing well in a very disappointing season for the traditional powerhouse. Out of the Champions League, and trailing Spanish leader Barcelona by 13 points in third place, Madrid's players have nothing to play for other than pride.
And a place on the team next season.
Zidane has acknowledged that the club will make changes to its squad in the summer. Benzema was already one of Zidane's favorite players when they won three Champions League titles together before Zidane stepped down last summer- only to come back last month.
The three goals gave Benzema 30 in all competitions this season. He has 21 goals in the league, second only to Lionel Messi with 33.
Benzema headed in his first two goals from crosses by Marco Asensio and Luka Modric in the 47th and 76th minutes, respectively.
He capped the win in the 90th after Bilbao goalkeeper Iago Herrerin gifted the ball to Gareth Bale with a clumsy clearance made outside the area. Bale then laid the ball off for Benzema to float a long strike into the empty net.
''I am happy that Karim scored the goals, but I am sure that he is happier for the victory. He is one of our leaders,'' Madrid's Marcelo said. ''It is tough to play with nothing at stake. We have to find the motivation. It has been a very, very difficult season, but we have to give it all for these colors.''
FIGHT FOR FOURTH
Getafe regained control of the final Champions League berth going to a Spanish team after Jorge Molina scored twice in a 3-0 victory over Sevilla.
Getafe leapfrogged Sevilla into fourth place, the last spot granting access to Europe's top-tier club competition next season. Sevilla fell two points behind Getafe in fifth place with five rounds remaining.
Getafe and Sevilla both finished the match in Madrid with 10 men.
Sevilla helped the hosts by giving away two penalties for hand ball. Both penalties were granted after referee Mateu Lahoz consulted the video review.
Jaime Mata put Getafe ahead in the 35th, scoring from the spot following a handball by Franco Vazquez.
Molina doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time, when Sevilla's Sergio Escudero was sent off with a second booking for using his arm to block a header in the area.
The 36-year-old Molina got his second goal in the 53rd. Mata dribbled before finding Molina arriving in the box to poke his leg around a defender and nudge the ball in.
Mata has 14 goals in the league this season, his first in the top flight. Molina has 13.
Getafe's Djene Dakonam was sent off late with direct red for dangerous tackle on Jesus Navas.
Also, 10-man Levante drew 2-2 with Espanyol at home.