Cristiano Ronaldo struck his first La Liga goal of the season five minutes from time to save Real Madrid from losing more ground in the title race with a hard-fought 2-1 win at Getafe on Saturday.
Real looked on course for a comfortable three points when Karim Benzema fired the visitors into a deserved half-time lead.
However, Jorge Molina’s equaliser early in the second half and an incredible miss by Ronaldo left the European champions needing a late saviour.
And Ronaldo rode to the rescue and made amends for his earlier profligacy with an accurate volleyed finish into the far corner.
Victory takes Real up to second and within four points of Barcelona, who travel to Atletico Madrid later on Saturday.
Despite being shorn of Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal and Keylor Navas through injury and illness, Zinedine Zidane surprisingly left Luka Modric and Isco on the bench after their exertions on international duty and with one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Tottenham Hotspur.
However, that decision backfired as once again Zidane’s men produced a lacklustre performance in La Liga.
Real dropped points at home to Valencia, Levante and Real Betis to allow Barcelona to open up a seven-point gap at the top of the table and even failed to find their top form in seeing off Alaves and Espanyol in recent weeks.
Cristiano Ronaldo has scored his first LaLiga goal of 2017/18 with his 28th shot of the season.
Drought finally over. pic.twitter.com/uFq9vbdM7V
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 14, 2017
Part of Madrid’s problem has been Ronaldo’s poor league form since returning from an early season five-game suspension.
Ronaldo’s first effort did at least produce a stunning save from Vicente Guaita as he drove Benzema’s neat layoff goalward from the edge of the box.
Guaita was left helpless six minutes before half-time, though, when Benzema latched onto Ronaldo’s pass and kept his composure to fire low into the far corner for his first league goal of the season.
Getafe had barely threatened before levelling in fortunate circumstances 11 minutes into the second half when Molina bundled home Francisco Portillo’s low cross despite appearing to be in an offside position.
The equaliser awoke Real from their second-half slumber and Guaita produced another great double save to block at Ronaldo’s feet before tipping Marcelo’s follow-up effort over.
Ronaldo drilled a free-kick just wide, but his embarrassing moment was still to come 17 minutes from time.
With the goal at his mercy as the ball rebounded into his path from a free-kick, the Portuguese somehow skewed wide at the far post.
Zidane threw on Isco, Theo Hernandez and Borja Mayoral from the bench in the search for a winner.
And it was Isco who provided the inspiration as his through ball released Ronaldo to finally break his duck in La Liga for the season by firing into the far corner.
Getafe could still have salvaged a point in stoppage time when Mehdi Lacen’s shot flew inches over with Real ‘keeper Kiko Casilla stranded.
Real jump into second thanks to Sevilla’s 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao earlier on Saturday as Mikel Vesga got the only goal two minutes before half-time.
— Real Madrid C.F.?? (@realmadriden) October 14, 2017
Provided by AFP Sport
On the eve of his 100th match in charge of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane insisted he maintains the same desire to succeed having already won seven trophies in his short coaching career.
Zidane’s Madrid became the first side to retain the Champions League in May, whilst he also ended a five-year wait to win La Liga last season on top of two European Super Cups, a Club World Cup and Spanish Super Cup.
“I still have the desire I had for the first game, that is the most important thing,” Zidane said ahead of Saturday’s trip to Getafe.
“That desire is our engine. The desire we put into every training session, every game.”
Zidane had no previous managerial experience at senior level having only coached Real’s youth team Castilla before taking charge in January 2016.
However, Real president Florentino Perez’s trust in his ability to turn his supreme talent as a player into coaching has been richly rewarded.
“Zidane is pure talent, but also shows hard work and sacrifice in his persistent search for perfection,” Perez wrote in an open letter to Zidane in sports daily Marca.
“He is insatiable in his hunger for victories, titles and he always shows respect and humility.”
? We return to LaLiga action tomorrow!
— Real Madrid C.F.?? (@realmadriden) October 13, 2017
Madrid have though endured a more difficult start to Zidane’s third season in charge as they trail Barcelona by seven points at the top of La Liga after just seven games.
Saturday presents a perfect chance to gain ground on at least one of their title rivals as Barca travel to face fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, who sit a point ahead of Real.
“I want to win our game and then we will see what happens between Atletico and Barcelona,” added Zidane.
“I don’t want one particular result, but just to make up ground.”
Zidane will have to do without Dani Carvajal due to illness and the injured Keylor Navas and Gareth Bale for the short trip across the Spanish capital to Getafe.
Bale looks set to miss a reunion against old club Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League on Tuesday.
But Zidane claimed he couldn’t set a return date for Bale from the latest in a series of calf injuries that impeded him for playing for his country as Wales’ attempt to qualify for a first World Cup since 1958 fell short this week.
“I can’t say when (he will return), but he is getting better every day,” added Zidane.
“He is the first one annoyed by it. He doesn’t want to be out of the team, but these things happen and we have to accept it.”
Provided by AFP Sport