Real Madrid rescued victory on their travels to Las Palmas in the Spanish Primera Division as a late goal from the Galacticos claimed three points in a 2-1 win on Sunday.
Captain Sergio Ramos headed the opening goal of the encounter midway through the first half, but the Galacticos failed to hit their best form against their resilient opponents. Willian Jose expertly finished in the 87th minute to potentially embarrass the illustrious visitors, but Carlos Casemiro snatched a winner for Real just a minute later.
Ramos' effort originally looked enough for Real against a team with little quality in attack, but Las Palmas gave a strong account of themselves at the Estadio Gran Canaria.
Los Blancos began the evening 15 points behind runaway leaders Barcelona, and coach Zinedine Zidane once again decided to pair Cristiano Ronaldo in attack with Gareth Bale after the Welshman's recent return from injury.
Madrid made four changes to the team that beat Roma in the UEFA Champions League, with Dani Carvajal and Alvaro Arbeloa picked as full-backs ahead of Marcelo and Danilo. Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez also made way for Isco and Lucas Vazquez.
There was one change to the Las Palmas team from their recent win at Villarreal as Roque Mesa replaced Nabil El Zhar.
Real Madrid TV presenter Phil Kitromilides commented on the hosts' fielding of homegrown talent:
Respect to Las Palmas who tonight field five players from Las Palmas in their starting XI and another five on the bench!— Phil Kitromilides (@PhilKitro) March 13, 2016
The hosts began the match brightly as Real's defence looked pedestrian and off the pace. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was called into action as Las Palmas pushed forward, and the Costa Rican denied striker Willian Jose in a one-on-one.
Ronaldo went close to scoring after being released by Luka Modric, but Las Palmas stopper Javier Varas was equal to the Portuguese icon. Ronaldo was roundly booed with every touch of the ball by the crowd, and the forward looked far from pleased by his reception.
Real took the lead after 24 minutes as Ramos headed home a corner with brilliant precision. The alpha male defender rose above his opponents at the front post and flicked his effort into the opposite corner.
Football writer Paul Morrissey highlighted Ramos' prowess in the attacking positions:
Sergio Ramos playing like a false 9 in Las Palmas tonight #TodoTerreno— Paul Morrissey (@Paul_Morrissey) March 13, 2016
OptaJose shared the player's headed goals statistics as the defender continues to prove his rounded contribution to the Galacticos:
3 - Current defenders with most headed goals in top five leagues:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 13, 2016
SERGIO RAMOS 27
John Terry 27
Las Palmas looked deflated after the goal, and Madrid began to control the ball with little fuss or effort.
The confidence had been knocked out of them after their early endeavours, and Navas was rarely called into action before the break.
Squawka Football shared the vital stats from the match as the players made their way back to the dressing rooms, with the visitors shading possession:
Las Palmas 0-1 Real Madrid HT:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2016
Chances created: 2-8
Pass accuracy: 81%-86% pic.twitter.com/xIsM0zXolm
Isco was lucky not to see red in the opening moments of the second half as the midfielder caught Mauricio Lemos in the air with an elbow. The referee brandished the yellow card against Las Palmas protests, and Isco remained on the pitch.
Bale was clearly struggling as he looks to find fitness, and Squawka highlighted how the superstar Welshman's accuracy was lacking:
Gareth Bale has struggled to get going so far tonight - completing 50% of his passes and creating 0 chances. pic.twitter.com/R6ETHAHwo8— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 13, 2016
The hosts began to make a concerted effort to get back into the match as Real began to temporarily flag, but the Amarillos struggled to make a true impression.
Las Palmas had a good chance to test Navas as Pepe lost concentration, giving the ball to Willian Jose, but the defender cynically brought down his opponent, earning himself a yellow as the crowd whistled for a sending off.
ESPN's Dermot Corrigan explained the ramifications for the Portugal international:
There's the yellow for Pepe which means he misses Sevilla next week and is okay for Clasico. Loses ball then pulls back Willian Jose.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) March 13, 2016
The game was stretched in the final 25 minutes, and Las Palmas appeared to have Real's defence worried, as Navas was forced to twice save his team.
Madrid looked tired and uninspired as the hosts increasingly dictated play while camped in Real's half.
Real were distraught on 72 minutes after Navas was adjudged to have picked up a back pass, conceding a free-kick deep inside the box. However, Momo failed to hit the target as the Madrid wall did its job and blocked the strike.
Corrigan once again called the action:
Ref says Navas picks up back pass ... indirect free for Madrid inside area... was Arbeloa interception which sent ball back...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) March 13, 2016
Replay suggests El Zhar might have got a touch... ref had just seconds earlier been listening to Las Palmas players / coach unhappy ...— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) March 13, 2016
As Real tried to kill the game in the final minutes, a break from the hosts produced a memorable moment for Willian Jose, as the player kept his cool and chipped the advancing Navas for a dramatic equaliser.
The hosts deserved their goal, as they were the better team in the second half, but Real responded immediately to steal the points.
A corner was met at the far post by Casemiro, and the Brazilian powerfully directed his header across goal into the bottom corner to stun the celebrating home supporters.
Real didn't deserve the 2-1 victory, as they lacked intensity and focus, but they gambled at the end of the contest and won.
Madrid remain four points behind second-placed Atletico Madrid, and Zidane will be hoping for a grandstand finish to the season in order for his side to leap their most bitter local rivals.
Zidane was not impressed by his side's endeavours on Sunday night and admitted Real need to drastically improve, per Corrigan:
Zidane in press conference: "Second half very worrying today. We must play better, that is so clear. Without that, we will get nowhere."— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) March 13, 2016
Zidane: "Las Palmas have good players, and made it difficult for us. But more than that it our performance that annoys me.”— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) March 13, 2016
Real are back in action in La Liga next Sunday when they host Sevilla. Las Palmas feature on Saturday, when they travel to Real Sociedad.