Real Madrid Draw Relegates Leganes And Messi Claims Golden Boot

 

Newly-crowned La Liga champions Real Madrid dropped points for the first time since the season’s restart on Sunday in a dramatic 2-2 draw that was not enough to save Leganes from relegation.

Leganes, who needed to beat Madrid and hope Celta Vigo failed to win against bottom club Espanyol, almost pulled off a miraculous escape but could not find a winner at the Butarque.

The draw means a rotated Madrid side surrendered the perfect record of 11 victories out of 11 since Spanish football came back from its coronavirus-enforced suspension while Karim Benzema fell short of Lionel Messi in the battle for the golden boot.

Gareth Bale was left out of Madrid’s squad completely for what might have been his last La Liga fixture for the club. Zinedine Zidane said afterwards it was a “technical decision”.

Messi had earlier scored twice in a 5-0 win over Alaves, enough for him to claim a record seventh ‘Pichichi Trophy’ and to give Barcelona a boost ahead of the return leg of their last 16 Champions League tie against Napoli next month.

The double took Messi’s league tally to 25 goals for the season and put him four clear of Benzema, who endured a quiet night against Leganes, with Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio on target.

The odds were always against Leganes but a miracle looked possible when Roger Assale equalised with 12 minutes left to find a winner.

But chances were missed and a penalty appeal was turned down, meaning they join Real Mallorca and Espanyol in Segunda next season.

“The lads are broken,” said Leganes coach Javier Aguirre. “We had it within our grasp.”

Real Sociedad and Granada, meanwhile, took the last two Europa League spots, with Getafe and Valencia missing out. Villarreal had already secured fifth place.

Granada thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 and qualification caps an incredible season for the club, who were only promoted from Segunda last term.

“Our aim was to stay up so to finish in the Europa League is a dream for us,” said Granada striker Roberto Soldado.

Real Sociedad snuck into sixth place after Adnan Januzaj’s 87th-minute goal clinched a 1-1 draw away at Atletico Madrid.

Barca believe in Euro glory

Messi finishes as La Liga’s top scorer for a record seventh time, pulling clear of Telmo Zarra’s six while playing for Athletic Bilbao in the forties and fifties.

“I’m never that bothered about the individual prizes and I would have preferred it to have come with a league title like before,” added Messi.

Setien said on Saturday he still believes Barcelona, at their best, can win the Champions League next month.

And a sparkling attacking display certainly gave a glimpse of what is possible, even if Napoli in the last 16, and potentially Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, will offer a completely different test.

There could be fitness concerns for Setien too ahead of the second leg against Napoli. Clement Lenglet hobbled off with what looked like a groin problem, with Antoine Griezmann and Samuel Umtiti already out injured.

But Setien has increasingly been putting his faith in youth and the 20-year-old Puig impressed again in midfield while 21-year-old Ronald Araujo gave a composed, albeit largely unchallenged, performance in defence.

The 17-year-old Ansu Fati opened the scoring at the near post before Puig teed up Messi to stride through and finish.

Luis Suarez capped a superb move by heading in his 17th league goal after Jordi Alba had volleyed Messi’s pass across, with another Puig through ball allowing Nelson Semedo to lash in a fourth.

Messi had the last word with a smart finish on the half-volley.

Madrid looked to have the game won when Asensio finished off Isco’s pass but Leganes pulled level as Assale nipped in to set up a dramatic last 10 minutes.

With Celta still being held, they only needed a goal to survive and Javier Aviles might have got it only to miskick at the back post and then failed to connect from a corner.

Replays showed Luka Jovic touched the cross with his hand but referee Guillermo Cuadra was not convinced and even goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar going up for a 94th-minute corner could not give Leganes the goal they needed.

Barcelona Sign Martin Braithwaite From Leganes

FILES) In this file photo taken on November 16, 2018 Denmark’s striker Martin Braithwaite celebrates after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Nations League Group B football match between Wales and Denmark at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff on November 16, 2018. 
Geoff CADDICK / AFP

 

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Danish forward Martin Braithwaite from Leganes after capitalising on a curious La Liga rule to ease their shortage of options upfront. 

Barca have taken advantage of the regulation that enables Spanish clubs in the top two divisions to buy from another La Liga club outside the transfer window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

Ousmane Dembele is expected to be out for the rest of the season with a hamstring tear, allowing the Catalans to sign Braithwaite after paying the Dane’s 18 million euro buy-out clause.

“The player will sign a contract with the Club for the rest of the season and four more until 30 June 2024 with the buy out clause set at 300 million euros,” Barcelona announced on their website.

After also selling Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month, Braithwaite’s exit is a cruel blow for struggling Leganes, who will not be able to bring in a replacement unless an exception is made by La Liga.

Leganes sit 19th in the table and play 17th-placed Celta Vigo on Saturday. Braithwaite was their top scorer this season with six goals.

But the 28-year-old’s addition will give cover for Barcelona, who were already without Luis Suarez to a knee injury before Dembele’s extended absence was confirmed.

The club applied for permission last week to make an emergency signing and were given the green light by La Liga on Monday.

Braithwaite could make his debut when Barca play Eibar at Camp Nou in the league on Saturday but the rule states he will not be allowed to play in the Champions League.

His arrival comes after the club allowed Carles Perez to join Roma and Abel Ruiz to leave for Braga last month when both forwards might have proved useful options in the squad.

AFP

Barcelona Thrash Leganes After Valencia Loss

Valencia’s Central African Republic-French midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia (L) challenges Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi during the Spanish league football match Valencia CF against FC Barcelona at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on January 25, 2020.  AFP

 

Lionel Messi scored twice as Barcelona hammered Leganes 5-0 on Thursday to advance to the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey and deliver a much-needed boost for new coach Quique Setien. 

Messi’s double, as well as goals from Antoine Griezmann, Clement Lenglet and Arthur Melo rounded off an emphatic win at Camp Nou, where Barca successfully bounced back from Saturday’s surprise La Liga loss away at Valencia.

“We did a lot of things well but I am not completely happy because we also lost control of the game in the latter stages of the first half,” said Setien.

Defeat at Mestalla allowed Real Madrid to pull three points clear at the top of the league and put early pressure on Setien, who replaced Ernesto Valverde as coach earlier this month.

His appointment will be judged on performances in the league and Champions League this season but Barca have a rich recent history in the Copa del Rey, which they have won in four of the last five years.

They will be in Friday’s draw for the last eight where, despite a number of upsets, they join a familiar-looking field.

Real Madrid, Valencia, Real Sociedad, Granada, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao are already through, with Sevilla to face Mirandes later on Thursday.

A home tie in the last 16 against La Liga’s bottom club always looked a kind route back to winning ways for Setien’s side, whose next four league fixtures now include Levante, Getafe and Eibar, all at home, as well as a trip to Real Betis.

Victories in those games would give Setien momentum but performances will be important too given his arrival was as much about changing Barcelona’s style as their results.

After a ponderous display against Valencia, they outclassed Leganes, who pressed high from the start, despite early indications suggesting this Barcelona team might struggle more against opponents that sit deep.

Before the game, the Catalans’ club director Guillermo Amor ruled out buying another striker before the end of the January transfer window on Friday, meaning Griezmann is likely to step into the role of the injured Luis Suarez down the middle.

“There may be a risk of injuries but I have confidence in the players I have,” said Setien. “It wasn’t to be and that’s fine with me. We have to think about what we have and we are happy because in a few weeks we will have Dembele back too.”

Griezmann made his case by opening the scoring after four minutes as Nelson Semedo cut back for the Frenchman to control and poke home his 13th goal of the season.

Another Griezmann strike was ruled out shortly after, only for Lenglet to head in Messi’s corner at the near post to put Barcelona two up after 27 minutes.

Messi made it three after springing in behind just before the hour and then Arthur Melo, on for Griezmann, added another, banging in after both Ansu Fati and Messi had been denied.

Leganes were finished but Messi had one more goal left in him as he latched onto Ivan Rakitic’s pass and rounded Pichu Cuellar, before finishing for his 19th of the season and third under a relieved Setien.

AFP

Atletico, Leganes Draw In Dramatic La Liga Fixture

Atletico Madrid’s Serbian forward Ivan Saponjic (L) heads the ball during the Spanish league football match Club Atletico de Madrid against Club Deportivo Leganes SAD at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid on January 26, 2020. AFP

 

Atletico Madrid’s goalscoring troubles resurfaced as they drew 0-0 at home to a struggling Leganes side that finished with a defender in goal after the dismissal of Ivan Cuellar.

Atletico crashed out of the Copa del Rey in midweek after losing to third-tier Cultural Leonesa, and Sunday’s latest setback would appear to rule Diego Simeone’s team out of title contention.

They are now winless in four games, their surprise cup exit preceded by a 2-0 loss at Eibar in La Liga last weekend and defeat by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

Atletico could finish the day 10 points behind city rivals Real, who travel to Real Valladolid later, ahead of next week’s Madrid derby at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Simeone admitted on Saturday his “life is consumed by Atletico” and while his stock among the club’s fans remains largely undiminished, there are concerns about his team’s direction of travel.

“Honestly, we’re not talking about the coach in the changing room,” said Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

“We all speak with him as players and we’re here to get better and to play football the fans enjoy.

“But what pleases supporters is to see their team win. Unfortunately that hasn’t been the case these past few matches. We’re going through a bad patch.”

Having sold French striker Antoine Griezmann to Barcelona, scoring goals has been Atletico’s fundamental weakness this season. They have managed only 22 in 21 league games, the same number as Real Mallorca in 17th.

Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata both tested Cuellar in the first half while Recio went close for Leganes with a curling strike that was deflected over by an Atletico defender.

Substitute Ivan Saponjic headed over for Atletico in stoppage time before bottom side Leganes were forced to play the final minutes with left-back Jonathan Silva in goal after Cuellar was shown a second yellow card for time-wasting.

Atletico continue to negotiate with Paris Saint-Germain over the signing of Edinson Cavani but even if the French club can be persuaded to sell this month, Cavani’s arrival may come too late.

Vidal Grabs Late Winner For Barcelona At Leganes

Barcelona’s Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal (L) celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match against Club Deportivo Leganes SAD at the Estadio Municipal Butarque in Leganes on November 23, 2019. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

 

Barcelona needed a late winner from Arturo Vidal to beat bottom-club Leganes 2-1 on Saturday and dig out a much-needed victory ahead of what could prove a crucial month in their season. 

Vidal poked in a fortuitous goal in the 79th minute at Butarque after Luis Suarez headed home a Lionel Messi free-kick to cancel out a brilliant opener from Leganes forward Youssef En-Nesyri.

Barcelona stay top of the table, three points above Real Madrid, who play later on Saturday at home to La Liga’s surprise high-fliers Real Sociedad.

A gritty victory will also come as a relief to under-pressure coach Ernesto Valverde, whose team now turn their attention to Wednesday’s crunch Champions League group game against Borussia Dortmund at Camp Nou.

A goalless draw against Slavia Prague earlier this month means Barca’s qualification from Group F is no longer guaranteed.

After Dortmund, they then play away at Atletico Madrid in La Liga to start a month that will include trips to Inter Milan in the Champions League and Real Sociedad in La Liga before the season’s first Clasico at home to Real Madrid.

It was important therefore to avoid a slip against Leganes, playing their first game in front of their own fans since appointing Javier Aguirre as coach.

“It was a big win because the game was very difficult,” Valverde said. “The pitch was dreadful, there was a lot of wind and they scored early.

“I don’t want it to sound like an excuse but it made it hard and still we were able to win. It wasn’t a brilliant game but these are the ones you have to win to win the title.”

The home side made the perfect start as En-Nesyri beat Gerard Pique with a wonderful early striker.

Pique has spent the international break juggling football with the Davis Cup, the revamped tennis tournament in Madrid that he is organising through his marketing company Kosmos.

“There is more noise outside the club than inside,” said Pique after the match. “I think it’s got a bit out of hand – whether I’m in Madrid, eating here, having dinner there – it’s all part of the circus. But I do my job. I come here, I play football. And that’s it.”

Doubts about the defender’s focus would not have been allayed in the opening quarter of an hour.

One pass from Roque Mesa was enough to set En-Nesyri free against the 32-year-old in the 12th minute.

Pique jostled but was taken by surprise as En-Nesyri nipped inside and bent a shot into the far corner. Leganes might have had a second soon after and Pique would have been at fault, the defender allowing Martin Braithwaite in after failing to clear, but Oscar Rodriguez was unable to capitalise.

Crosses were a weakness for Leganes as three Barcelona headers all could have gone in. Suarez went close. Pique hit the post. Then Suarez did find the net, glancing in Messi’s clipped free-kick for his ninth goal of the season.

Barca’s second owed much to luck but it came from another cross. Pique rose to head in but the ball missed him and cannoned off the foot of Ruben Perez. Vidal was waiting on the line to prod in.

AFP

Leganes Coach Pellegrino Leaves Club After Reaching Agreement

Head coach Mauricio Pellegrino of Club Deportivo Leganes during the La Liga match between Villarreal and Leganes at Estadio de la Ceramica, on April 21, 2019 in Vila-real Spain. AFP

 

Leganes have parted ways with their coach Mauricio Pellegrino by mutual agreement, the Spanish club announced on Monday.

Pellegrino, who took over in June 2018 after being sacked by Southampton, led Leganes to a 13th-place finish in La Liga last season.

But they are yet to win this term and sit bottom of the table after seven defeats and two draws.

A club statement read: “Leganes and Mauricio Pellegrino have decided, by mutual agreement, to part ways.”

“The Argentine coach, who managed last season to keep the team for one more year in the top flight, will not manage the team next weekend against Mallorca.”

Luis Cembranos and Carlos Martinez, who were previously the coaches of Leganes B, have been put in temporary charge.

AFP

Madrid Handed Disappointing Draw At Leganes

Leganes’ Argentinian defender Jonathan Silva (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the Spanish league football match between Club Deportivo Leganes SAD and Real Madrid CF at the Estadio Municipal Butarque in Leganes on April 15, 2019.
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Real Madrid took the Monday night slot reserved for La Liga’s lower teams and never really looked out of place as Karim Benzema’s goal was enough only for a 1-1 draw away to Leganes. 

Madrid delivered another thoroughly underwhelming performance at Butarque to remain 13 points adrift of Barcelona, with Zinedine Zidane’s second reign as a coach now delivering three wins, one defeat and a draw.

Leganes might even have won it after Jonathan Silva gave them the lead shortly before half-time and while Benzema scored his 26th goal of the season, Madrid never looked like finding a winner.

Instead, they sit four points behind Atletico Madrid and finishing second, and above their city rivals, appear unlikely. Leganes climbs to 11th.

READ ALSO: Arsenal Move Into Top Four With Victory Over 10-Man Watford

Zidane was asked last month about the humiliation of playing on a Monday night, the time typically reserved for La Liga’s sides not involved in European competitions and so unpopular that it will be abolished next season.

It meant as Barcelona were preparing to face Manchester United in the Champions League quarter-finals on Tuesday, Real Madrid stepped out looking to salvage only pride and, perhaps, momentum ahead of what most expect to be a busy summer.

Most of Zidane’s press conferences have so far been dominated by questions about his players’ futures and on this evidence, few will be feeling secure.

Benzema has been, by a distance, Madrid’s most consistent player this season and he showed again why Zidane has already said the striker will stay. Gareth Bale, meanwhile, was left on the bench for the second time in three matches, with his prospects look ever-more bleak.

Chances were few and far between in the first half but Madrid could twice have taken the lead as Marco Asensio scuffed his finish after being put through by Isco and Raphael Varane’s shot was blocked after a goalline scramble.

Leganes, though, were otherwise rarely made to feel uncomfortable and shortly before half-time, they took the lead. Madrid failed to clear, instead of allowing Martin Braithwaite to roll back to Silva, who guided the ball into the corner.

Zidane strode down the tunnel at half-time and his team emerged with greater purpose afterwards, with Benzema finding an equaliser six minutes in.

Casemiro threaded a neat ball through to Luka Modric, who twisted and set free Benzema. His first shot was pushed out by Pichu Cuellar but only back to Benzema, who fired in the rebound.

Silva headed straight at Navas and Youssef En-Nesyri had a goal correctly ruled out for offside late on. Neither side really deserved a winner.

AFP

[UPDATED] Leganes Stun Barcelona After Pique Blunder

Leganes’ Spanish midfielder Oscar Rodriguez (C) celebrates his team’s second goal during the Spanish league football match Club Deportivo Leganes SAD against FC Barcelona at the Estadio Municipal Butarque in Leganes on the outskirts of Madrid on September 26, 2018.
OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Gerard Pique made the mistake and Ernesto Valverde will take his share of the blame after Barcelona slipped to their first defeat of the season against Leganes on Wednesday.

Pique committed the decisive error, his fluffed clearance allowing Oscar Rodriguez to score Leganes’ second of two goals in two incredible minutes, and claim a 2-1 victory at Estadio Municipal de Butarque.

Nabil El Zhar had nodded in an equaliser just 68 seconds before and by the end Philippe Coutinho’s sumptuous early volley was reduced to little more than a footnote.

After drawing at home to Girona on Sunday, albeit with 10 men, Valverde will have questions to answer too after he left out key players for the second time in three days.

Against Girona, it was Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti on the bench and just as they all had to be called upon in the second half at the Camp Nou, so were Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba as substitutes here.

Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday and then Tottenham at Wembley in the Champions League four days later but one point from two of La Liga’s lesser opponents is a worry.

So is the form of Pique, who was also at fault against Girona last weekend and will have to start against Spurs, with Umtiti suspended.

Things began well enough. Lionel Messi darted one way and then the other, before passing left to Coutinho. His touch sent the ball spinning into the air but he adjusted, cutting his right foot across the ball and sending a brilliant volley into the bottom corner.

Messi hit the crossbar soon after with a curling effort and a second seemed a matter of when rather than if.

Instead, Leganes found a foothold and Youssef En-Nesyri should have equalised, only to head straight at Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Then from the 52nd minute, they scored not one, but two. First, Barca were ripped open on the break as Thomas Vermaelen failed to stop El Zhar heading in at the back post.

Barca kicked off, Coutinho conceded possession and one long ball forward caused chaos again. Pique attempted to clear the cross but, off balance, succeeded only in slicing it to Oscar, who slammed it into the net.

Seven minutes later, Suarez was on and then Alba and Malcom too, but it took until the 80th minute for Barca to go close. Leganes goalkeeper Pichu Cuella palmed away Coutinho’s shot before jumping up to tip over Rakitic’s rebound.

AFP

Bale Leads Real To Low-Key Win Over Leganes Ahead Of Bayern Clash

 

Bale Leads Real To Low-Key Win Over Leganes Ahead Of Bayern Clash
Real Madrid’s Welsh forward Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Leganes at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid on April 28, 2018. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Gareth Bale scored as a much-changed Real Madrid warmed up for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Bayern Munich with a 2-1 win over Leganes on Saturday.

Bale bundled Real into an early lead before Borja Mayoral took advantage of more sloppy defending to make it two before half-time.

Serbian Darko Brasanac gave Leganes hope of a comeback, but Real closed out the victory despite struggling in the second half.

“I’m very happy with the attitude of my players today, with 10 changes to the starting eleven, with players who haven’t played much,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

“We can’t be happy with what we’ve done in the league in general. We lost a lot of points at the beginning, then we were a bit better but that can happen in a season.

“Now we have to get back to work, we have another match on Tuesday which will be our game of the year. We have a title to defend.”

Real stay third in the table, one point behind city rivals Atletico who play Alaves on Sunday when Barcelona can secure the La Liga title if they avoid defeat at Deportivo La Coruna.

Zidane made sweeping changes to the team which beat Bayern 2-1 in Wednesday’s first leg at the Allianz Arena, with Bale and Karim Benzema returning.

Bale boosted his hopes of a start in the second leg by hooking in a deflected Benzema effort to give Real an eighth-minute lead with his first goal since a double against Las Palmas on March 31.

Leganes had stunned Real with a 2-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu in January to reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals but struggled to make any inroads against their dominant hosts.

Daniel Ceballos fired narrowly over, but the soon-to-be-deposed league champions doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Mayoral tapped in from close range after Leganes goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar totally missed a left-wing cross, with offside appeals waved away as defender Unai Bustinza had got a touch to the ball on its way through.

It was the 21-year-old Mayoral’s second La Liga goal, having also netted against Real Sociedad in September.

Leganes grew into the game after the break as Real’s thoughts perhaps turned towards Bayern, and Miguel Guerrero wasted an excellent chance to halve the deficit as he headed wide from a Nabil El Zhar cross.

But the away team did pull one back in the 66th minute, as Nordin Amrabat forced his way to the byline and squared for Brasanac to tap in from close range.

On-loan Watford winger Amrabat was proving dangerous, and the Moroccan saw a low shot saved by stand-in Real goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Leganes continued to pile on the pressure, with Casilla making a brilliant stop to deny Bustinza.

Leganes defender Gabriel sent off in injury-time, as Real clung on for the three points after a below-par performance.

Own-goal double settles Basque derby

Earlier on Saturday, Athletic Bilbao midfielder Mikel San Jose scored two own goals as his side slipped to a 3-1 defeat at Real Sociedad in Saturday’s Basque country derby.

The 28-year-old volleyed a corner emphatically past his own goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute, before Mikel Oyarzabal doubled the advantage before half-time.

San Jose became only the second player to ever score two own goals in a La Liga match at the Anoeta Stadium, putting through his own net early in the second half before Raul Garcia scored a consolation from the penalty spot.

Elsewhere, Espanyol all but assured safety with a 1-1 draw against already-relegated Las Palmas.

Deportivo La Coruna will join Las Palmas and Malaga in dropping into the second tier if they fail to beat Barcelona on Sunday.

Sevilla sacked coach Vincenzo Montella after just four months in charge after seeing their winless run extended to nine games with a 2-1 loss at lowly Levante on Friday.

It was the second time the Italian had been sacked this season, after being dumped by AC Milan last November.

AFP

Real Madrid Fight Back To Win Without Ronaldo

 

Real Madrid Fight Back To Win Without Ronaldo
Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring during the game.  OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo was rested as Real Madrid came from behind to win 3-1 at Leganes on Wednesday and move back up to third place in La Liga.

Unai Bustinza had put Leganes in front at Butarque, raising hopes that the home side could record another famous victory just weeks after they ousted Real from the Copa del Rey.

However, the reigning European champions turned this Madrid derby around before half-time with Lucas Vazquez and Casemiro both on target.

Sergio Ramos sealed the win with a late penalty, and Real have now taken 16 points from the last 18 available in La Liga.

“It’s another win, the fourth in a row and it’s important to get the points,” said Real coach Zinedine Zidane.

“We’re happy, we’re third in the table and that’s an important result for us. We want to continue like this, we have had hard times so we want to take advantage of this good spell.

“We are confident, we believe more and each player is giving more on the field.”

They are still a massive 14 points adrift of unbeaten league leaders Barcelona, but they are up to third above Valencia and within seven points of city rivals Atletico, who are second.

With the games piling up for his team, Zidane rested Ronaldo for this rescheduled fixture, initially postponed in December due to Real’s involvement in the Club World Cup.

With Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Marcelo all injured and in a race against time to be fit for the Champions League last 16, second leg against Paris Saint-Germain in a fortnight, this was another chance for some of Real’s fringe players to shine.

Theo Hernandez and Isco were among the starters, but Gareth Bale was back on the bench as he struggles to rediscover his best form.

Kiko Casilla was handed a start in goal in place of regular number one Keylor Navas, and Casilla was picking the ball out of his net inside six minutes, with Bustinza bravely stooping to score from almost on the line after his initial effort had been blocked.

However, it took Real just five minutes to draw level, Casemiro helping the ball into the path of Vazquez, who slotted home low.

Casemiro is a defensive midfielder by trade but he put Madrid in front just before the half-hour mark, scoring at the end of a lovely one-touch move also involving Karim Benzema and Vazquez.

It took Real until the 90th minute to make sure of the victory, though, with Ramos scoring from the penalty spot after Mateo Kovacic had been fouled.

Zidane’s side will bid to continue their improved form when they host Alaves at the weekend.

AFP