Cristiano Ronaldo scores first free-kick in 31 attempts and almost a year as Real Madrid beat Eibar 3-0 to keep pressure on Barcelona

Manchester United loanee Javier Hernandez also on target

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The Independent Football

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first free-kick in almost a year as Real Madrid cruised to victory against Eibar at the Bernabeu.

Ronaldo had taken 31 free-kicks at goal since scoring his last goal, with the strike taking his tally to a league-leading 38 for the season; including matches for Portugal the Ballon d'Or winner had struck 56 free-kicks without finding the net.

Carlo Ancelotti's team pulled to within a point of Barcelona at the top of La Liga.

The Portuguese sent a bouncing free-kick over the wall and beyond goalkeeper Xabi Irureta in the 21st minute to open the scoring at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United loanee Javier Hernandez doubled the lead 10 minutes later whilst youngster Jese Rodriguez capped the one-sided match in the 83rd.

Ancelotti was able to give some of his regular bench players a rare start with several first-choice starters rested ahead of the Champions League quarter-final at Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.

Gareth Bale missed the match with a muscle strain with Hernandez starting instead of Karim Benzema. Keylor Navas had a quiet day in goal replacing Iker Casillas and the team didn't miss midfielders James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos, who served one-match suspensions.

Madrid's defence even got a boost when Pepe returned from injury as a second-half substitute.

Ronaldo received some help from Irureta to score his goal. The Eibar goalkeeper mis-judged Ronaldo's fre- kick and moved out of position, leaving him unable to react in time and stop the ball from bouncing past.

Madrid dominated the rest of the way as Hernandez and Rodriguez polished off the victory that kept Eibar in 14th place.

Additional reporting from AP