Numancia 0 Real Madrid 3: Spot-kick double gives Zidane's men winning start to 2018
Gareth Bale scored a penalty on his first start since September and Isco tucked away another spot-kick as Real Madrid opened 2018 with a 3-0 win at 10-man Numancia in the first leg of their last-16 Copa del Rey tie on Thursday.
Lucas Vazquez won both penalties for drawing fouls by Carlos Gutierrez and Unai Medina, although Numancia could feel both spot-kicks were soft awards, with Borja Mayoral wrapping up the victory with a stoppage-time header.
Bale was one of the few first-team regulars on show at Los Pajaritos, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos among those rested as Madrid returned from Spanish football's winter break, having lost their last match of 2017 3-0 at home to Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane was marking the second anniversary of his appointment as Madrid head coach, but the Frenchman had a nervy night until late on as second-tier side Numancia pushed Los Blancos hard.
Bale opened the scoring from the penalty spot, the forward confidently rolling the spot-kick home, and Numancia's hopes of producing a fightback were seemingly ended after Pape Maly Diamanka was sent off with half an hour to play, having caught Nacho on the ankle with a late challenge.
Jagoba Arrasate's side almost snatched an equaliser in spectacular fashion with 15 minutes to play, Inigo Perez spotting Kiko Casilla off his line, but seeing his 45-yard chip bounce back off the crossbar, only for Isco to convert another arguable penalty and Mayoral to head home a late third.
Bale was making his first start since September after calf and thigh injuries and the Wales international hit an early free-kick into the wall.
Numancia were on a five-match unbeaten run and Higinio Marin went close to giving the hosts a shock lead, drilling just wide of the far post in the 13th minute.
Mayoral scored twice against Fuenlabrada in the last round and the striker should have hit the net again, somehow turning Marco Asensio's deep free-kick wide from point-blank range.
Madrid survived a penalty appeal when Theo Hernandez appeared to tug the arm of Dani Nieto in the box, then referee Javier Estrada Fernandez gave the LaLiga champions a debatable spot-kick at the other end after 35 minutes.
Vazquez nutmegged Gutierrez but went down theatrically under minimal contact, Bale tucking the penalty away by sending Munir Mohamedi the wrong way with a stuttered run-up.
Nacho miskicked with the goal at his mercy within two minutes of the restart as Madrid tried to put the tie beyond Numancia.
Mohamedi blocked Dani Carvajal's effort with his right boot before Numancia were reduced to 10 men, Diamanka shown a second yellow card for a nasty foul on Nacho.
Higinio headed Nieto's cross wide after 66 minutes as the hosts continued to threaten despite Madrid's man advantage.
And they went even closer when Casilla was caught out of position, only for Perez's sensational effort from just inside the Madrid half to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce down a yard in front of the line.
Substitute Isco ought to have wrapped up Madrid's victory with six minutes to play, but, having worked the chance on to his left foot, he cleared the crossbar from eight yards.
5 - Lucas Vazquez has won more penalties than any other Real Madrid player under Zinédine Zidane in all competitions. Knife. pic.twitter.com/bpMUcsAocb-- OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2018
But after Vazquez drew a foul from Medina in the box, Isco smashed home from 12 yards to put Madrid in a dominant position ahead of Wednesday's second leg.
And with Numancia tiring, Mayoral added to his Copa del Rey goal haul by nodding in a right-wing cross from Achraf Hakimi to complete the scoring.