Karim Benzema’s 18th goal of the season set Real Madrid on their way to a 3-0 victory as they finally wore down a stubborn Alaves.
The France international’s 30th-minute strike and late efforts from the impressive Vinicius Junior and substitute Mariano settled a game into which the visitors grew on a night when Gareth Bale struggled to have an influence in his first start since returning from injury.
It was Real’s fifth successive win in all competitions and fourth in LaLiga, and could hardly have been better timed ahead of Wednesday night’s Copa del Rey semi-final first leg clash with Barcelona and the Madrid derby which follows it next weekend.
The home side began in determined fashion as they attempted to avenge their 1-0 defeat in the reverse fixture in October and with Luka Modric and Vinicius prominent in the early stages, they created a series of early openings.
Midfielder Daniel Ceballos fired wide after his initial fourth-minute effort had been blocked, and Benzema curled an attempt just past the post five minutes later.
Alaves winger Jony kept the home rearguard on its toes with a series of well-timed runs, but most of the action came at the other end with Vinicius forcing a 16th-minute save from Fernando Pacheco and full-back Sergio Reguilon rippling the roof of the net from distance three minutes later.
It was Reguilon who finally fashioned the breakthrough on the half-hour when he ran on to Vinicius Junior’s astute pass and crossed for Benzema to side-foot home from close range.
Madrid were unable to build upon their advantage as the first half drew to a close, and they were almost made to pay for it within seconds of the restart when full-back Ruben Duarte volleyed wide, although Benzema scuffed a shot into the ground and straight at Pacheco as play moved swiftly towards the Alaves goal.
Bale belatedly forced his way into the game four minutes after the restart when, having spent the first half playing down the right, he turned up on the left to force Pacheco to save at the second attempt after being played in by Modric.
With the visitors pressing higher than they had before the break, Burgui came close to levelling when he fired into the side-netting from a tight angle four minutes later, but Bale clipped a 63rd-minute free-kick a yard over with what proved to be his final involvement before he was replaced by Marco Asensio.
Thibaut Courtois was called upon for the first time to beat away Jony’s fierce strike three minutes later as Alaves resurgence continued, although Vinicius whistled an effort inches over with 20 minutes remaining as the home fans urged their team to respond.
The game was over when Vinicius controlled Asensio’s 80th-minute cross and slid his shot beyond Pacheco and into the far corner, and Mariano made sure in stoppage time with a spectacular diving header.
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