BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Karim Benzema has Real Madrid right on the tail of Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league.
The French striker scored a penalty and set up two more goals in an easy 5-0 victory over Leganés on Wednesday, moving Madrid into second place after stumbles by other teams.
Madrid climbed to within one point of defending champion Barcelona. The two fierce rivals still have a game to play against each other after last round’s “clásico” was postponed until Dec. 18 so as not to coincide with a protest by Catalan separatists.
Granada, now in third place, can move to the top of the table if it beats Getafe on Thursday. But the other teams that have jostled at the top of the table so far all dropped points this round.
Sevilla could only muster a 1-1 draw at Valencia on Wednesday, while Real Sociedad lost 2-1 to Levante at home. Atlético Madrid was held 1-1 at Alavés on Tuesday. Those combined results let Madrid jump from sixth to second place. Barcelona was the only top team to also win in Round 11, thrashing Valladolid 5-1 on Tuesday.
Benzema assisted 18-year-old Rodrygo and Toni Kroos for goals in the sixth and eighth minutes. He set up both teammates with passes into the six-yard box they could use one touch to finish off.
“Karim did what he always does,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane. “It is important that he scored, but he gives us so much more. He makes it so easy for his other teammates to play.”
Serio Ramos added a third from a penalty in the 24th that he was able to repeat after having his initial spot kick saved by goalkeeper Juan Soriano, who was adjudged after a video review to have left his line too early. Eden Hazard set up the chance when he was fouled by Soriano.
Madrid continued to dominate after halftime as Benzema hit the upright shortly before he converted a penalty after Luka Modric was fouled in the box.
That was Benzema’s seventh goal in La Liga this season, making him the competition’s joint-leading scorer along with Real Betis’ Loren Morón.
Substitute Luka Jovic scored his first goal since joining Madrid this summer with a header from a pass by Dani Carvajal in the 90th.
Leganés remained in last place.
“We will have to forget this match as fast as we can,” said Leganés coach Luis Cembrano.
DRAW AT MESTALLA
Valencia got an equalizer in the 81st from substitute Rubén Sobrino to salvage the point against Sevilla.
Sobrino headed in a free kick from Dani Parejo to cancel out Lucas Ocampos’ strike in first-half injury time.
Sevilla lost defender Sergio Escudero to an unspecified injury in the first half. He had to be taken off on a stretcher after colliding with a teammate.
Iker Muniain scored twice to help Athletic Bilbao end a five-game winless streak by beating Espanyol 3-0 at home. His second goal was a brilliant looping strike from outside the area.
Nabil Fekir netted a 90th-minute winner to lift Real Betis over Celta Vigo 2-1 in a clash between two teams needing a victory. Betis’ first win in five round extended Celta’s streak to four defeats in a row.
More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports