Real Madrid returned to winning ways after last weekend's drubbing at Atletico but failed to convince and were whistled...
Real Madrid returned to winning ways after last weekend’s drubbing at Atletico but failed to convince and were whistled by their own fans during a drab 2-0 victory at home to Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.
La Liga leaders Real were looking for an inspiring performance before Wednesday’s Champions League trip to Schalke 04 and were fortunate not to drop points with another insipid display following the humiliating 4-0 defeat at the Calderon.
Cristiano Ronaldo, criticised this week for throwing a 30th birthday party hours after the Atletico game, and Gareth Bale each struck efforts against the crossbar at the Bernabeu before Isco curled a shot into the corner of the net to fire the hosts ahead in the 23rd minute.
However, Deportivo, who are 13th in the table after coming back up from the second division at the end of last season, refused to capitulate and should have levelled four minutes into the second half.
Midfielder Celso Borges thumped a shot against the post when well placed in the penalty area and Oriol Riera forced a fine save from Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas with a glancing header moments later.
Some disgruntled Real fans, who whistled when the names of coach Carlo Ancelotti and captain Casillas were read out before kickoff, were growing increasingly restless before Karim Benzema dinked a shot over onrushing Deportivo keeper Fabri and into the net 17 minutes from time.
The victory, in which Real’s new signing Lucas Silva made his debut 20 minutes from time, put the world and European champions four points clear of second-placed Barcelona ahead of their game at home to struggling Levante on Sunday.
Atletico are three points further back in third before Sunday’s trip to Celta Vigo.
“It has been a tough week and it was very important to get the victory today,” Real centre back Nacho, who with Raphael Varane is standing in for the injured Sergio Ramos and Pepe, told Spanish television.
“We played poorly at the Calderon and it was necessary to analyse what went wrong,” he added. “The team is very united and today we showed that.”
Sevilla climbed above Valencia into fourth spot, five points adrift of Atletico, thanks to a 3-0 win at home to Cordoba earlier on Saturday.
Both sides had a man dismissed in the second half, with Cordoba midfielder Patrick Ekeng seeing red in the 54th minute and Sevilla midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak sent off 19 minutes later.
Sevilla had lost three of their last four La Liga games before Saturday, including a 3-1 reverse at Valencia, who will reclaim fourth if they avoid defeat at home to Getafe on Sunday.
Coach Unai Emery said he was relieved to see a solid performance before the Europa League holders host Borussia Moenchengladbach in the last 32 of Europe’s second-tier club competition on Thursday.
“Today we needed to recover a sense of resolve and control and the team delivered on that,” Emery told a news conference.
Athletic Bilbao missed a chance to climb up the table when they were held to a 0-0 draw at Granada, who climbed off the bottom above Cordoba.
Bilbao, who are 12th and play at Torino in the Europa League on Thursday, failed to find a goal even after Granada had Emanuel Insua sent off in the 68th minute.
In the late kickoff on the south coast, Espanyol beat Malaga 2-0 despite having to play with 10 men for the final 10 minutes at the Rosaleda.
Alvaro Gonzalez headed Espanyol in front three minutes before halftime and Malaga should have levelled in the 82nd minute when substitute Diego Colotto, who had only been on the pitch for around three minutes, was sent off for a handball in the penalty area.
With Espanyol keeper Kiko Casilla out of position, Colotto appeared to tip a fierce Javi Guerra strike onto the crossbar and was shown a straight red card but Nordin Amrabat’s weak spot kick was well saved by Casilla.
Espanyol captain Sergio Garcia made it 2-0 in added time. The result left Malaga in seventh, with Espanyol six points behind them in eighth.