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Real Madrid bounce back from Girona defeat with a Benzema hat trick

MADRID — Karim Benzema scored a first-half hat trick as Real Madrid recovered from a disappointing midweek loss at Girona by beating lowly Almeria 4-2 at home in LaLiga on Saturday.

With six games remaining, second-placed Real maintained their slim title hopes by moving up to 68 points, cutting Barcelona's lead to eight points. Barcelona host sixth-placed Real Betis later on Saturday.

Benzema opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a close range shot from a Vinicius Jr. cross and extended Real's lead 12 minutes later after a magnificent individual play by Rodrygo, who went past a rival with a backheel dribble before crossing to the French striker.

Benzema netted his third from the penalty spot in the 42nd minute after Lucas Vazquez was fouled inside the box. Benzema is now only one goal behind Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski's haul of 18 in the hunt to be LaLiga's top scorer in the 2022-23 season.

Lázaro tried to put Almeria back in the game by scoring from point-blank range three minutes later but Real extended their lead right following the break after Rodrygo rifled a shot from the edge of the box into the top left corner.

Real wasted several chances to extend their lead further with Rodrygo and Vinicius missing sitters from close-range and Benzema and Asensio hitting the post twice each.

The referee initially awarded Real Madrid a penalty for a foul on Benzema inside the box, but reversed his decision after checking the VAR replay for an infringement in the build-up.

A Lucas Robertone header narrowed the deficit after Toni Kroos gifted the ball to the opposition inside his own box.

"We are always eager to win and with the defeat of the last match we had even more. I'm happy for another assist and another goal," Rodrygo told DAZN.

"The backheel dibble was improvising, I think it was the only way to get space between the defender and the touchline. It was a beautiful, glad with the assist."

Real Madrid vs Almeria full highlights

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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