- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

MADRID (AP) - Karim Benzema scored his first goals since being implicated in a blackmail case, helping Real Madrid beat Getafe 4-1 Saturday and move closer to leader Barcelona in the Spanish league.

Barcelona conceded a late equalizer in a 1-1 draw at Valencia, with the host’s new coach Gary Neville watching on in the stands.

Benzema scored in the fourth and 16th minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium. Gareth Bale added a third in the 35th and Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 38th to give Madrid a needed victory, one day after it was disqualified from the Copa del Rey for using a suspended player in the latest embarrassment to hit the Spanish powerhouse.

Madrid has been under increased pressure since a humiliating 4-0 loss to Barcelona at home, and again coach Rafa Benitez was loudly jeered by fans at the Bernabeu. Many club supporters also repeated calls for the resignation of president Florentino Perez.

Fans also booed the team after Getafe scored its lone goal through defender Alexis Ruano after a corner in the 70th.

The result allowed Madrid to pull within four points of Barcelona, while it remained two points behind Atletico Madrid, which defeated Granada 2-0 for its fourth straight league win. Diego Godin scored with a header in the 20th and Antoine Griezmann sealed Atletico’s away victory with a close-range shot in the 76th.

Barcelona opened the scoring at Valencia through Luis Suarez in the 59th, but young striker Santi Mina netted the equalizer with only a few minutes left in the game at the packed Mestalla Stadium.

“I have no complaints about the team, we put in a complete performance at a very tough ground,” Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. “We had the better chances, but we were not able to finish them off.”

The result ended Barcelona’s six-game winning streak in the league, and was Valencia’s fifth-consecutive game without a loss.

Neville, a former Manchester United and England defender, will begin his first head managing job on Sunday, a day after observing his new players against the defending champions. Valencia was still under the command of interim coach Salvador Gonzalez on Saturday.

Benzema hadn’t scored since Oct. 8, when France defeated Armenia 4-0 in a friendly match. His last goal for Madrid was in a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid on Oct. 4 at the Vicente Calderon.

“He’s very important for us and helps the others to play well,” Benitez said of Benzema. “When I spoke to him he was raring to play, and we even spoke about him scoring two goals. He met his target. He’s focused and he knows that he has to perform well on the football pitch because that will help him to tackle any problem.”

Benzema has been charged in France with conspiracy to blackmail in relation to an alleged extortion scam over a sex tape featuring his national teammate Mathieu Valbuena. Benzema is suspected of having played an active role in pressuring Valbuena to deal with the blackmailers.

Benzema spent a night in police custody in November because of the case, which has attracted unwanted attention for the striker with headlines both on and off the sports pages. Benzema also had to deal with an injury, and he had played only three games since the friendly against Armenia.

Benzema opened the scoring with a goal from close range after a cross by defender Pepe, then added to the lead by evading a couple of defenders in front of the goal before firing a left-footed shot into the back of the net.

Bale also scored with a low left-foot shot from inside the area, and Ronaldo netted his 10th league goal following a fast counterattack.

Ruano put Getafe on the scoreboard with a header toward the end of the match.

“We gave the goals away in the first half, we can’t do that,” Ruano said. “It’s always difficult to earn points in here.”

Many Real Madrid fans applauded after the final whistle, but before the match loud boos greeted coach Benitez and Russian player Denis Cheryshev, who played in the team’s 3-1 win over Cadiz in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday despite being suspended.

Because Madrid didn’t realize that Cheryshev was carrying a one-match suspension for accumulation of yellow cards from the time he played for Villarreal last season, the club was disqualified by the Spanish soccer federation.

Madrid said it will appeal the ruling because the player allegedly wasn’t properly notified of the suspension, a claim the federation has already disputed.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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