Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side’s third goal during a La Liga match against Atletico Madrid. Image Credit: AP

Madrid: Thibaut Courtois overcame the jeers — and a barrage of toy rats — while Gareth Bale delivered a timely reminder of his talents as Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 in a feisty city derby on Saturday.

Real’s fifth league win in a row means they sit second for the first time since September, above Atletico, and just five points behind Barcelona.

Barca could restore the gap to eight by overcoming Athletic Bilbao on Sunday but another impressive performance at the Wanda Metropolitano, aided by some fortunate decisions, puts Real back in the thick of the title race.

“We will always fight until the end,” Real coach Santiago Solari said. “We have to keep going like this.”

“They were better than us,” said Atletico boss Diego Simeone. “We have to respond quickly.”

Bale had been left out of the starting line-up for the second time in four days, after he was also a substitute against the Catalans in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday.

The Welshman’s goal, his 100th for Real Madrid, was not lost on Solari, even if his celebration raised eyebrows, after he appeared to make an insulting gesture towards the Atletico fans.

Bale’s finish ended their hopes of a comeback after Sergio Ramos’ penalty put Real in front at half-time, with Antoine Griezmann earlier cancelling out Casemiro’s acrobatic opener.

“It’s great for Gareth,” Solari said. “He was very happy and happy about his goal, which helped decide the game, because the game was alive and he finished it.”

By the time Thomas Partey was sent off with 10 minutes left, the game was up, and Courtois could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief at the final whistle.

The Belgian, who spent three years at Atletico, was playing in the white of Real for the first time at the home of his former club.

He was whistled when he came out to warm-up and then before kick-off too, as the Atletico ultras behind the goal hurled dozens of toy rats towards his head. A sign read, ‘Thibaut — Rata’, just to underline the point.

“I knew what was going to happen,” Courtois said. “A derby is always tough but I had to keep a cool head and stay focused, not to think about what they threw at me. It doesn’t matter.”