Zinedine Zidane hails Cristiano Ronaldo for Karim Benzema penalty gesture
MADRID -- Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed a "lovely gesture" from Cristiano Ronaldo after he turned down a hat trick chance by giving a penalty to Karim Benzema, allowing him to score in Saturday's 4-0 home win over Alaves.
Ronaldo opened the scoring with a low strike from Benzema's flicked assist in the closing stages of the first half, and Gareth Bale made it 2-0 in the opening seconds of the second after more good work from Benzema.
The Portugal captain then got his second of the game before handing the ball to Benzema when Bale was fouled in the area in the closing seconds.
Benzema converted to cheers from a Bernabeu crowd who had whistled him when he missed two chances earlier in the second half.
Zidane told his postmatch news conference the France international had deserved his goal, and praised Ronaldo.
"I am happy for Cristiano's nice gesture with Karim," he said. "This shows he is a team player. It is something positive for me.
"Karim deserved this, to score a goal, as he had played a very good game. There is always pressure when you are Real Madrid's No. 9, he is used to that. I am happy for all of it -- another four goals, a clean sheet, all that we did."
Benzema's late penalty meant Madrid's "BBC" strikeforce were all on the scoresheet for the first time since April 2016, and Zidane said: "They played a very good game today -- also Lucas Vazquez, the four up front all played very well. I am happy for all four."
Bale's first full 90 minutes since September saw him fielded on the left wing in a 4-4-2 formation.
"Bale played a good game today, played the 90 minutes, in a position where he has not played recently," Zidane said.
"Gareth did very well in the 4-4-2. That went well for us. I wanted to see Gareth in this position, then we will see what happens in the coming games."
Madrid have won their last five games in all competitions, scoring 20 goals, and Zidane said the 3-1 Champions League win over Paris Saint-Germain on Feb. 14 had provided a major confidence boost.
"After our game against PSG, we have been doing much better," he said. "Maybe we needed a game like that.
"Last year it was the same, we had some games when we scored in the last minute. At the moment we have the consistency we want in our play, our focus.
"That comes with recovering confidence, which is fundamental for a player. Now what we must do is keep going like this in the next game on Tuesday [at Espanyol]."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan