Real Madrid narrowed the gap to city rivals Atletico to three points with a largely forgettable 1-0 victory at Real Valladolid.
A game which rarely threatened to burst into life never did so and it was settled by Casemiro’s second-half header.
It may have been a different story but for a superb double save by Thibaut Courtois early on, as the hosts started the game on the front foot.
However, that was as good as it got for the team second-bottom of LaLiga and after taking the lead, Madrid simply ran down the clock and cruised to three valuable points.
Zinedine Zidane’s side remain second in the table but fully capitalised on leaders Atletico Madrid being beaten by Levante earlier on Saturday, though Diego Simeone’s men have a game in hand.
Both teams were missing a number of players through injury. Valladolid made four changes from their 1-1 draw at Eibar last time out, with the suspended Lucas Olaza among those to drop out.
Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal were fresh injury absentees for Madrid so Mariano started up front, with Lucas Vazquez coming in at right-back.
— Real Madrid C.F. 🇬🇧🇺🇸 (@realmadriden) February 20, 2021
The hosts started well and Courtois was forced to make a fine double after seven minutes to prevent Madrid from falling behind.
A loose touch from Marco Asensio allowed the ball into the box from the left-hand side and both Fabian Orellana and Saidy Janko should really have scored from close range but the goalkeeper made two excellent reaction stops.
Valladolid’s early promise soon faded as Zidane’s side predictably assumed control, without really worrying Jordi Masip in the home goal. Vazquez had a good chance but he put his shot straight into the arms of the goalkeeper.
Casemiro should have scored just before half-time but he planted his header over the crossbar.
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) February 20, 2021
Valladolid started brightly again after the break and Roque Mesa worked Courtois, although it was a routine save for the Belgium international.
Vinicius and Vazquez soon threatened at the other end before Madrid made the breakthrough after 65 minutes. Vazquez won a free-kick on the right which Toni Kroos delivered high to the far post, where Casemiro jumped above Luis Perez to head the ball back across goal and into the bottom-right corner of the net.
Madrid did not show much intent to attack after that, confident they had done enough to earn the win as they simply stroked the ball around from side to side in the Valladolid half before easing their way to the three points.