Jose Mourinho once again rolled the dice against goalkeeper Iker Casillas, and once again the outcome was not to the Real Madrid manager's liking.
But there were explosive starts, stunning goals and dramatic storylines in Real Madrid's 4-3 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday.
It took Karim Benzema just under 90 seconds to put Real Madrid ahead; he was aided by an excellent assist from Sami Khedira, who was magnificent in his work rate. It would have been easy to assume that Madrid were starting as they intended to go on, but it wasn't to be the most straightforward win.
It was interesting that neither side was really able to rise to a better performance considering the circumstances.
Real Sociedad had the fortune of playing against 10 men for the majority of the match following Antonio Adan's sending off. The smaller team defended with a makeshift back four that featured a midfielder, a prospect, a veteran who may well be over the hill and a full-back playing on his less favoured flank.
Real Madrid, in equal measure, still look to be fighting the demons of internal conflict.
But there were a few standout performers. Cristiano Ronaldo capped a very good performance with a couple of sensational efforts. Khedira gave a man-of-the-match performance for Madrid with his goal, assist and tireless effort. Mesut Ozil, while not shouting loudest from the peak of the mountain, also contributed significantly to a number of promising passages of play.
Benzema should have put Real Madrid ahead going into halftime, and Khedira certainly could have done better with the rebound that cannoned off the post.
But that break was a throwback to the merciless counterattacking football of last season. It saw the best attacking performers on the pitch combine for what should have been the most impressive goal of the game. Or at least one of them.
What can you say about the makeshift back four? Not a whole lot that would draw inspiration. But a centre-back partnership with Raphael Varane and Ricardo Carvalho could have seen a lot worse had Sociedad managed to raise their game and seize the opportunity.
But it really was a Real Madrid team that looked split between the defence and attack. The forward line produced some very good moments, and the win will undoubtedly be a boost for confidence and morale. The back line, however, should have put up a more stubborn defence of their keep.
Conceding three goals against a Sociedad team, who were terrible for most of 2012 away from home, is not a game worth remembering. But with Sociedad's attacking display the most important factor, it's probably best to sum up Madrid's defence as average.
Putting aside the performances and hysteria, the spectators had to feel for Adan, who really didn't expect his big break to come at a time of such fiery confrontation.
Ronaldo once again proved his worth to this Real Madrid side. Whatever the outcome may be with the battle against Jose Mourinho come May, it is important that the club retain the services of this Portuguese international. It would be difficult to replace his explosive nature in front of goal.
Antonio Adan 3
Michael Essien 5
Raphael Varane 6
Ricardo Carvalho 6
Alvaro Arbeloa 6
Sami Khedira 8
Xabi Alonso 6
Jose Callejon 5
Mesut Ozil 7
Cristiano Ronaldo 9
Karim Benzema 8
Iker Casillas 6
Luka Modric 6
Gonzalo Higuain 6
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