Benzema continues fine form
Karim Benzema continued his fine recent form with a brace to help Real Madrid down lowly Hercules 2-0 and cut Barcelona's lead at the La Liga summit to four points.
Benzema took his tally to eight goals in his last six matches after scoring in the 24th and 56th minutes, leading Madrid to their 24th successive home win in all competitions. For Hercules, the defeat leaves them stuck in the bottom three with just six points and three goals from 15 away games this season.
"I'm very happy with the team, although I didn't like the first half much," said Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho. "Games preceding and following Champions League encounters are always difficult to play. In the second half we were better and Hercules had less of the ball."
Madrid were again missing Cristiano Ronaldo, who is set to be fit for the midweek UEFA Champions League tie with Lyon, while the likes of Pepe, Xabi Alonso and Ricardo Carvalho were rested.
After Angel Di Maria and Esteban Granero had put efforts wide for the hosts, Madrid took the lead in the 24th minute through Benzema, who has now scored twice in his last three matches. Mesut Ozil's pass picked out the overlapping Alvaro Arbeloa, whose pass inside to Benzema was slotted home by the French international.
Madrid came close to doubling their lead four minutes later through Emmanuel Adebayor. The on-loan Manchester City man powered in a brilliant header which produced an equally good save from Juan Calatayud.
Hercules, whose only away win this season was against Barcelona in September, were not without their chances and Madrid were indebted to Iker Casillas for keeping them in front. He dove to his right to push out Olivier Thomert's half-volley in the 36th minute and then tipped over Kiko Femenia's rising shot after he had skipped past Marcelo and Lassana Diarra on the edge of the box.
Madrid may not have been firing on all cylinders in the first half, but they looked keen to finish the match off as soon as possible in the second period. Adebayor came within inches of a goal 25 seconds after the restart but his half-volley from the edge of the box hit the crossbar.
Benzema then saw a thunderous shot diverted over by Calatayud while the Frenchman and Di Maria had further efforts as Jose Mourinho's men chased another goal. That duly arrived in the 55th minute when Benzema netted a fine second. He made his way towards the Hercules goalline before cutting inside Abraham Paz and curling a low shot in off the far post.
Adebayor had two more opportunities to get on the scoresheet, while Ozil saw a free-kick tipped over and Benzema and Sami Khedira were near adding to the scoreline before the end.