EIBAR, Spain (Reuters) - Karim Benzema struck twice as Real Madrid continued their sparkling run of form by coasting to a 4-0 win at Eibar on Saturday thanks to a rampant first-half display, going level on points with La Liga leaders Barcelona.
Benzema got Zinedine Zidane's side off to a comfortable start in the torrential rain at Eibar's compact Ipurua stadium, knocking a loose ball into the net in the 17th minute after it had been sprayed across a crowded penalty box.
Real quickly extended their lead with a penalty from Sergio Ramos in the 20th after Eden Hazard had been tripped.
They earned another spot-kick when Lucas Vazquez was felled and Benzema took the ball and calmly tucked it home to net for a fourth time in two games after his brace in Wednesday's 6-0 rout of Galatasaray in the Champions League.
Real were not as ruthless in the second half but still managed to stretch their lead in the 61st minute when Luka Modric teed up Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde, who scored his first goal for Real.
The victory briefly took Zinedine Zidane's side top of the standings on 25 points after 12 games but Barcelona went ahead of them on goal difference after a 4-1 win at home to Celta Vigo.
Real Sociedad are third on 23 points after drawing 1-1 at home to Leganes on Friday, although Barca and Real each have a game in hand on the Basque side.
"We have been producing very complete performances recently and today was another one," said Real defender Dani Carvajal.
"Our start set the tone for the game and we have to keep that up, unfortunately the international break comes at a time when we are doing very well."
Real had harrowing memories of their last trip to Eibar, when they were overpowered 3-0 last November in a game that spelled the beginning of the end for coach Santiago Solari.
Things could hardly have been more different this time -- Real were insatiable in the first half as Valverde provided relentless energy through the middle and Hazard looked at his most dangerous since his summer move from Chelsea.
Real have now scored 16 goals without conceding any in their last five fixtures, a resounding response to their shock 1-0 defeat at Real Mallorca three weeks ago.
"We worked very hard and believed in what we were doing," said Real coach Zidane.
"The Mallorca game was tough for us but since then we have played with a lot of generosity, and when you have the amount of quality we have everything is easier."
"We are being more ruthless in both areas and that is making a big difference," added Carvajal.
"Last week against Betis the ball wouldn't go in, and they became more confident the longer we didn't score and it became harder for us. But when we make a strong start and score early the opponent leaves a lot of space and we can take advantage."
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)