MADRID: Karim Benzema stopped Real Madrid's underwhelming La Liga season going from bad to worse on Sunday after firing a last-minute winner to hand the European champions a barely-deserved 3-2 winner over bottom club Huesca.
Humbled by Ajax in the Champions League and dumped out of the Copa Del Rey by deadly rivals Barca, third-placed Real showed little signs of improvement in Zinedine Zidane's second game in charge but Benzema, subject to rumours he may leave Madrid in the summer for Manchester United, struck with a fine curling finish the to snatch the three points at a sparsely populated Santiago Bernabeu.
"We are happy with him and I am going to count on him, now there are nine games left and then we will see what happens. He is a Real Madrid player and I don't think this will change," Zidane said. "You have to accept it. If the people want to come to the Bernabeu to see us so much the better, but I understand that since we are not going to win anything fewer people come."
Real move to within two points of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who hammered Champions League hopefuls Alaves 4-0 on Saturday in a match that saw Diego Costa score for the first time since November.
However Real still lag 12 points behind leaders Barcelona, who are 10 clear of Atletico and heavy favourites to retain their La Liga after Lionel Messi fired them to their sixth league win on the bounce, 2-0 at home to local rivals Espanyol on Saturday, with a brace that took the Argentine to 31 league goals this season.
Earlier Valencia maintained their hopes of a place in next season's Champions League after Daniel Parejo's penalty on the stroke of half-time gave them a vital 1-0 victory at Sevilla.