Lively Hazard on way back to form but needs more confidence


Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Deportivo Alaves v Real Madrid - Estadio Mendizorroza, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain - January 23, 2021 Real Madrid's Eden Hazard REUTERS/Vincent West

VITORIA-GASTEIZ, Spain (Reuters) - Eden Hazard reminded Real Madrid of his class in Saturday's 4-1 win at Alaves and was backed by his team mates and coach to rediscover his old self after a disappointing first two seasons since his club record move from Chelsea.

Making only his fifth start of the campaign after three spells out with injuries or illness, Hazard notched Madrid's third goal before halftime, expertly controlling a Toni Kroos pass before producing a confident finish.

He also dovetailed well with Karim Benzema, laying on a subtle backheel pass to the Frenchman for the visitors' second goal.

The forward was taken off midway through the second half, indicating he is yet to return to full fitness after a first season blighted by two serious ankle injuries and a stop-start second campaign.

The Belgian still has a lot to do to justify his 100-million-euro move to Real and rediscover the form he showed with Chelsea, but Benzema believes he is on the right path.

"At Chelsea he was a certain type of player and now he has to write a new history at Real Madrid," said Benzema.

"I think he is doing well, he's so much better than before, he is working hard and he had a superb game today. We need to see the best version of Hazard."

Real assistant coach David Bettoni, who took charge of the team as Zinedine Zidane is off work with COVID-19, said Hazard would be lifted by the display, emphasising that even a player of his quality needs confidence to thrive.

"He's a very creative player, he's spontaneous and he needs confidence to take on opponents. He's had a lot of injuries and he needs everyone to have a little patience in him, even though there's very little patience in football," he said.

"He has so much talent and little by little he'll return to his best, and we really need him to do that."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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