MADRID (Reuters) - Zinedine Zidane asked Gareth Bale to step up his game ahead of Real Madrid’s clash with Real Sociedad on Sunday and the Welshman responded with a goal in the champions’ 3-1 win at Anoeta.
With Cristiano Ronaldo suspended and Karim Benzema injured, the onus was on Bale to deliver as Madrid ended a blip which saw them draw two league games in a row and slip seven points behind rivals and league leaders Barcelona.
Zidane’s side were excellent against Sociedad, with 20-year-old forward Borja Mayoral scoring one and prompting Kevin Rodrigues to score an own goal, while Bale’s strike was the icing on the cake.
Asked about the midweek jeers and whistles from Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu which prompted Zidane to say Bale had more to give, the winger said he would try to ignore them.
“It’s normal, it happens in football. For me obviously I just have to try to keep my head down and keep working hard, and that’s all I can do,” Bale told Movistar.
“I can’t control what goes on, I can only control how hard I work on the pitch. You go through ups and downs in your career, and it’s how you bounce back.”
Bale’s 61st-minute goal helped Madrid to kill the game against dangerous opponents who had been unbeaten this season.
He raced on to Isco’s long, lofted ball, charged through on Geronimo Rulli’s goal and dinked the ball over him for his sixth goal in five matches at Anoeta.
“It’s always great to score but the most important thing was to get the three points for the team, to get back to winning ways,” said Bale.
“It was a great goal but the most important thing was to get the goal for the team, to get the win and close the gap at the top.”
Bale helped Madrid to move up to fourth place, four points behind Barcelona, ahead of a run of league games which on paper look comfortable for the champions until they visit local rivals Atletico Madrid on Nov. 19.
Zidane was pleased with how Bale, who has been plagued by injury for much of the year, responded to the criticism made of him by supporters and the Spanish media.
“I’m very happy for him. They talk a lot about him but he showed the player he is, you have to have patience with him,” said the French coach.
“I’m glad he scored because he needed it. It’s not easy, after running 70 metres, he finished very well technically and I’m happy for him.
“For me he’s not at his best yet, I know that we will find that bit by bit, but you have to have patience.”
Editing by Clare Fallon