Dani Ceballos was the hero for Real Madrid in his first start on Saturday, scoring twice in the narrow 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves at Estadio Mendizorrotza.
The winless Basques had plenty of late chances at an equaliser after Manu Garcia pulled them level in the 40th minute, but Los Blancos clung to their advantage.
Here's a look at the teams:
Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 @realmadriden
📋 This afternoon's starting XI against @Alaves! Let's do this lads! #RMMovistar https://t.co/fyplSdz8pI2017-9-23 13:08:25
Deportivo Alavés @Alaves
#AlavésRealMadrid | ¡Ya tenemos 1️⃣1️⃣ para enfrentarnos al @realmadrid! 🔵⚪️🔵 ¡A por todas, equipo! #GoazenGlorioso https://t.co/DJ5bxZlRtv2017-9-23 13:17:24
While Alaves started the match well, the Basques have been in horrendous form defensively all season long, and it showed after just 10 minutes. Marco Asensio played in Ceballos, who cleverly cut the ball back before finishing the chance for the lead.
ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan noted the strike came on his first start for the club:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
1-0 Madrid. Dani Ceballos fires home first goal for Madrid, 10 mins into his first start. First effort blocked, followed up from 12 yards.2017-9-23 14:25:10
Sergio Ramos threatened with a header that Alaves goalkeeper Fernando Pacheco saved, and Lucas Vazquez also got involved, somehow failing to double the lead from close range.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco also wasted opportunities to add to the lead, and just before half-time, Los Blancos paid the price. Barcelona loanee Munir El Haddadi found a wide-open Garcia with a cross, and he easily headed home.
As Robbie Dunne of AS English shared, Raphael Varane did not look good during the sequence:
Robbie Dunne @robbiejdunne
Varane pointing to Carvajal telling him to mark Medran, which he does, and in the meantime, Garcia is free and heads home. Poor from Varane.2017-9-23 14:56:35
But the hosts couldn't even keep hold of the momentum until half-time. Just three minutes after the equaliser, Ceballos struck again, with Pacheco failing to clear the initial chance.
Ronaldo struck the post almost immediately after the start of the second half and perhaps should have done better. He missed again shortly after, showing some rust after his lengthy absence.
Ramos thought he had doubled the lead after 64 minutes, but the official called play back for a foul from Ronaldo, per Corrigan:
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan
Ramos heads in, but ref had already blown foul against Ronaldo when ball was in the air. Foul well away from the ball too.2017-9-23 15:37:28
Ronaldo hit the post yet again, and Alaves followed suit, striking the woodwork on two separate occasions. Real were playing with fire and didn't do themselves any favours by missing several great chances, with Ramos in particular struggling in front of goal.
Pacheco gave his team a chance at a late draw with a fine save on Ronaldo, but Alaves couldn't muster any real chances, as Real preserved a narrow win.
Los Blancos will next play on Tuesday, when they face Borussia Dortmund and look to stay at the top of Group H in the UEFA Champions League, while Alaves will look for their first win of the 2017/18 La Liga campaign next Saturday against Levante.