Real Madrid demonstrated some of Zinedine Zidane’s fighting spirit to come back from behind to thump Huesca 2-1 with Raphael Varane stepping up in the absence of long-term absentee Sergio Ramos to get both goals.
It was no more ‘Mr Nice Guy’ in Friday’s pre-match press conference when Zidane blast his critics and alleged his team were being disrespected and should be given time to compete in the league they won last season.
Some of that fire seemed to have described to the players and after they went behind against bottom club Huesca they came back to life to grab three vital points which take them to within seven points of leaders Atletico Madrid – albeit having played more games.
Most of the tension came in the second half. Mikel Rico hooked a shot onto the bar and Rafa Mir did likewise with Thibaut Courtois beaten both times.
Either side of the two chances Javi Galan had gone one better to put Huesca in front.
The move started with Huesca’s right-back Pablo Maffeo advancing down his flank and ended with Galan thundering in the opening goal.
The second half was just five minutes old but Madrid could have been suppressed. They were alerted from the shock and Benzema free-kick, they were level. His set-piece hit the top of the crossbar and when it came back Varane climbed highest to nod it over the line.
The Huesca keeper is only 22 but he clearly has something about him and he was there to frustrate Benzema again on 81 minutes shoving his long shot over the bar.
But Madrid would not be withheld and when Toni Kroos floated a pinpoint free-kick to the back post, Casemiro’s header was saved and Varane swept in the rebound from close range.
It was a happy ending to another difficult week for Zidane. Madrid had staggered into the game without Ramos, just out of knee surgery, and also missed Eden Hazard, Fede Valverde, Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez, Isco and Rodrygo Goes. He had just four outfield players on the bench.