Gareth Bale's hat trick leads Real over Valladolid: La Liga
Atletico Madrid beat Elche
Gareth Bale scored three goals and set up a fourth to make sure Real Madrid didn't miss injured star Cristiano Ronaldo as it cruised to a 4-0 win over Valladolid in the Spanish league on Saturday.
With Ronaldo out nursing a hurt hamstring for a second straight game, Bale took up the scoring duties in the 32nd minute before finding Karim Benzema to make it 2-0 four minutes later.
Bale got his second in the 64th and third in the 89th against Valladolid's bewildered defence to give him five goals since Ronaldo was sidelined.
Madrid's fifth league win in a row following its loss at Barcelona lifted it three points from the defending champions and Atletico Madrid, which won 2-0 at Elche on goals by Diego Costa and Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion.
Barcelona can reclaim sole possession of the league lead from Atletico at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Bale, who joined Madrid on a world record 100 million euros transfer from Tottenham this summer, showed with his first hat trick for Madrid that he has certainly shaken off his injury problems from earlier this season.
"His adjustment period is over," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said about Bale. "He has confidence, he is important to the team, and he played very well."
Bale has seven goals in league play, leaving him third for Madrid behind Benzema's eight and Ronaldo's 17, which lead the league. Bale also has scored twice in the Champions League.
Defender Marcelo, however, made it clear who Madrid's No. 1 is.
"Gareth is a great player but you can't compare him with Cristiano because Cristiano is above all the rest," Marcelo said.
Also, Real Sociedad rallied to a 2-1 win at Espanyol decided by Christian Stuani's own goal in the 88th to sit in sixth place overnight.
Celta Vigo came back to beat Almeria 3-1 for its first home victory at Balaidos Stadium in eight attempts this season under first-year manager Luis Enrique.
With Ronaldo unavailable, Angel Di Maria started and wasted little time in controlling a clearance outside the area before rattling the bar with a left-footed shot on either side of two Sergio Ramos headers that sailed high.
The overmatched Valladolid rarely managed to shift the action out of its area, and Bale found himself in perfect position to nod in a rebound of Di Maria's curling effort that goalie Diego Marino parried directly to the Wales winger.
Bale's pinpoint cross picked out Benzema to put the result beyond doubt before halftime.
Bale was again aided by a poor clearance for Madrid's third. This time it was defender Jesus Rueda who knocked Marcelo's cross back for Bale to fire home. But Bale wasn't finished and he started and finished off a late counterattack by tapping in Marcelo's low cross.
"My team didn't recover from their second goal," said Valladolid coach Juan Ignacio Martinez. "Madrid makes you pay for any lost balls. They have great players on the break who always finish their attacks."
With Elche hanging tough, Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on Raul Garcia and Adrian Lopez and the changes paid off to earn Atletico's 17th win in all competitions to go with four draws and just one loss.
Atletico broke through seconds after Garcia replaced David Villa. Koke pounced on a rebound from Garcia's shot that Manuel Herrera saved but failed to clear, leaving the Elche goalkeeper strewn on the turf with defender Alberto Botia and Diego Costa after they collided.
Diego Costa secured the three points in the 74th by scoring from Lopez's perfectly placed chipped pass. It was Diego Costa's 15th league goal, the second highest after Ronaldo.
"The entrance of Raul Garcia and Adrian [Lopez] gave us two bursts of creativity when the game had gotten bogged down," Simeone said. "We have to keep going forward this way and remain realistic. I know it's a good moment for Atletico's fans, but we are focusing on one game at a time."
Sociedad's Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Jhon Cordoba's 31st-minute goal for Espanyol with his ninth goal of the season in the 69th by heading in Carlos Vela's pass.
The Basque side was gifted the late winner when Stuani's flubbed clearance of a Ruben Pardo cross looped off the underside of the bar and into his team's net.
New world chess champion Magnus Carlsen took the honorary kickoff at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.