Real Madrid 4-2 Almeria: Benzema hits first-half hat-trick to cut Barca's lead
Karim Benzema scored a first-half hat-trick as Real Madrid beat Almeria 4-2 at the Santiago Bernabeu to move within eight points of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.
After Girona and Rayo Vallecano dealt the top two surprise midweek defeats, Madrid had the chance to cut Barca's lead – at least temporarily before the Blaugrana face Real Betis.
Benzema ensured they seized that opportunity in emphatic fashion, benefitting from excellent assists from Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo before stroking home a third from the penalty spot.
Lazaro and Lucas Robertone netted either side of a long-range fourth from Rodrygo as Almeria fought gallantly, but Madrid were ultimately deserved winners.
Benzema was heavily involved from the off and had already tested Fernando Martinez by the time he opened the scoring five minutes in, tapping home after Vinicius darted down the left to cross with the outside of his boot.
His second, arriving after 17 minutes, owed much to Rodrygo, who turned Samu Costa with a brilliant piece of skill before teeing up Benzema to sweep home.
Largie Ramazani headed wide as Almeria sought a response, but the winger was then at fault as Benzema clinched his hat-trick, tripping Lucas Vazquez to allow the Frenchman to convert from the spot.
Almeria clawed one back on the stroke of half-time, Lazaro tapping in Ramazani's low cross from the left.
But any hopes of a comeback were extinguished within three minutes of the restart, when Rodrygo rifled into the top-right corner after finding space on the edge of the area.
Almeria hit back again when substitute Robertone headed past Thibaut Courtois, but Madrid remained in control – going close to a fifth when Benzema and Marco Asensio hit the woodwork, while Eduardo Camavinga had a header ruled offside.
What does it mean? Champions bounce back
Barcelona's first league title of the post-Lionel Messi era appears close after a stuttering run from Madrid, who began this game having lost three of their past six in LaLiga.
However, Carlo Ancelotti's side were at their devastating best as they tore through Almeria, and they have now scored two or more goals in five consecutive home league games for the first time since June 2020.
With a Copa del Rey final and a huge Champions League semi-final tie against Manchester City to come, this could be another hugely fruitful season for Madrid.
Benzema on top form
Benzema was absent through injury when Madrid suffered a humiliating 4-2 defeat at Girona on Tuesday, but he required little time to get up to speed on his return.
The lethal frontman's treble is the third he has scored this month after hat-tricks in resounding wins over Real Valladolid and Barcelona.
Brazil star sparkles
With his combination of trickery and pace, Vinicius has demanded special attention from Madrid's opponents this term.
On Saturday, however, he was upstaged by fellow Brazilian Rodrygo. Having added a 20-yard screamer to his terrific assist, the 22-year-old now has 14 goal involvements in LaLiga this season (six goals, eight assists) – a tally only bettered by Benzema (20) and Vinicius (19) for Madrid.
Madrid visit top-four contenders Real Sociedad in LaLiga on Tuesday, before facing Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final next Saturday. Almeria, meanwhile, are next in action against Elche on Tuesday.