Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo hits hat-trick against Real Sociedad

It is only a fortnight since el clàsico but this feels like a different age. Fourteen days, four matches, and – get ready for this – 17 goals later, Real Madrid have found themselves. And Gareth Bale is very much a part of the change. The news here was that he did not score, as he had against Juventus in Turin on Tuesday. He did, though, provide an assist.

Together with Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale forms a €236m front three who are starting to look like they could come to define this club. They already have a nickname: Bale, Benzema and Cristiano, the BBC. If there is still a concern for Madrid it is at the other end where they have conceded eight in four games.

Madrid departed the Camp Nou having been defeated 2-1 on 26 October. They slipped six points behind their rivals Barcelona but the sensation was more worrying than the stats: they were yet to find an identity; doubts weighed heavily. Bale had started the match, his second since joining Madrid, as he sought full fitness. Many suggested that he should not have done. No one would say that now.

For the fourth game in a row Bale started alongside Ronaldo and Benzema. The name BBC will inevitably produce a million jokes; it is producing a lot of goals too.

This is a line up that suits Bale, who is finding space in which to run. He and Ronaldo, superb athletes, are racing inside or out from their wide positions, facilitated by Benzema's clever movement and passing from the middle.

The return of Xabi Alonso, releasing them from deep, is further good news while Luka Modric, who preceded Bale from Tottenham to Madrid, was also superb.

Madrid had scored 12 in their past three matches, all of them from Bale, Ronaldo or Benzema. The Welshman had scored three and provided four assists, three of them with his right foot.

And there was another significant statistic too: he had completed 90 minutes in the two league games and 75 minutes in Turin. He would do so again here. If the footballing doubts had gone, the physical ones had gone with them.

In the opening half, Bale had two chances. The first was a left-foot shot that went into the side netting, the second a header that went just wide. But there was no frustration, just warm applause for a player whom the Santiago Bernabéu is becoming increasingly fond. Not least because by the time the header flashed wide, Madrid had already scored four. They had the lead on 12 minutes. Alonso's 50-yard pass was killed instantly by Benzema, and he clipped a wonderful ball to Ronaldo at the far post. He controlled and thumped it home on the bounce from six yards. It was Ronaldo's 14th league goal and he had already hit a 25-yard shot against the bar.

He would get two more. Europe's top scorer is Spain's too. First, Ronaldo provided for Benzema to make it 2-0 with a neat side foot, then he scored the third from the penalty spot.

Then, in the 35th minute, Dani Carvajal sprinted up the right and rolled the ball to Bale near the edge of the box. He nudged a first-time pass into Sami Khedira to score the fourth. The pattern was finally broken: 15 goals later, it was not Bale (on three), Benzema (on four) or Cristiano (on eight) who had scored.

It soon would be. Ronaldo smashed in a free-kick in the second half for Madrid's fifth. It was his ninth goal in four games. He has 15 in the league and eight in the Champions League.

In the meantime, there had been just one more thing Madrid had to do to keep up the trend from recent games: concede.

They did that 16 minutes into the second half when a mistake from Pepe allowed Antoine Griezmann to lob a consolation goal over Diego López. He very nearly got a second soon afterwards while Carlos Vela drew a sharp save from López. It would have been the third consecutive game in which Madrid had conceded two but with the BBC at the other end, it may not matter.

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