WALES star Gareth Bale produced a goal-scoring return for Real Madrid from three months out injured.

The forward has been sidelined since the Champions League group match at Sporting Lisbon on November 22 after needing surgery on tendon damage in his ankle.

There were initially fears that he would miss Wales' must-win World Cup qualifier against Ireland in Dublin on March 24.

However, he has boosted both club and country by making a return when helping Real beat Espanyol 2-0 at the Bernabeu to stay top of La Liga.

The 27-year-old produced a dream comeback when, having come on for the final 20 minutes, he raced onto a pass from Isco down the left and slotted the ball into the far corner.

Bale said: "The reception I got when I came on was incredible. It's great to be back and get a win.

"It's rewarding to come back and score a goal. I've only been training with the first team for five days - I'm lacking a lot of fitness."

Real manager Zinedine Zidane added: "I told him to enjoy the game, he is a special player, different to everyone else.

"It doesn't look like he's been out for three months. He's very powerful, he makes the difference and that's why he's special."