Casemiro spares Madrid’s blushes

Casemiro’s late header proved to be the winner at Gran Canaria as a below-par Real Madrid narrowly defeated Las Palmas 2-1 in La Liga on Sunday.

Danilo, James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos were given the night off by Zinedine Zidane, with Dani Carvajal, Isco and Lucas Vazquez all coming in as a result, while Alvaro Arbeloa was handed a rare start at Marcelo’s expense. Las Palmas, on the other hand, made just the one change, bringing in Roque Mesa for ex-Liverpool winger Nabil El Zhar.

Las Palmas exhibited a fearlessness Madrid were not accustomed to in the opening stages at Gran Canaria, rivalling the visitors in possession of the ball, and they should’ve taken the lead through Willian Jose, only for Keylor Navas to push away a one-on-one with the former Blanco.

Pedro Bigas then fluffed his lines from a corner, when the ball fell onto this shin from point-blank distance, but he blazed his shot over the bar, and it inspired Madrid to push on in search of the coveted opener, with Vazquez particularly getting plenty of joy down the right.

It was his pass which released Cristiano Ronaldo on the opposite flank, the Portuguese away in the clear, with only Javi Varas to beat, but his shot rebounded off the goalkeeper, leaving Sergio Ramos to climb the highest from a corner and guide a header into the roof of the hosts’ net.

Nonetheless, Las Palmas showed remarkable character to avoid caving in, and Madrid struggled to match the hosts’ intensity as they lost Pepe and Sergio Ramos to suspension, the pair now ruled out of next week’s match against Sevilla.

Isco was also guilty of indiscipline, when he greeted Zidane’s decision to hook him off on the hour mark by throwing his coat to the ground, before giving his drink bottle the same treatment.

As Madrid toiled, Las Palmas worked the ball Nili in the box, with the visitors’ defence all at sea, but he took a touch and gave Navas just enough time to block his shot.

Arbeloa was then guility of playing a backpass to Navas, which the goalkeeper collected, although replays showed Los Blancos’ appeals to have been correct as El Zhar got a touch to the ball, but Momo’s free kick in the box was deflected over the bar.

Substitute Sergio Araujo nearly took on the role of super-sub when he sent his header from Pedro Bigas’ cross just wide of the target, but Kovacic’s dreadful square pass from a free kick gifted Momo a through ball for Willian Jose, who gently chipped a finish over Navas at the goalkeeper's near post.

Yet awful defending from a corner saw Casemiro power a header home just moments later to maintain Zidane’s unbeaten away record at the helm, despite Ramos’ red card for a second bookable offence in added time.

Las Palmas 1-2 Real Madrid

Willian Jose 87 (LP) Ramos 24, sent off 89, Casemiro 89 (RM)

Las Palmas: Varas; Garcia (Araujo 85), Lemos, Bigas, Garrido (Castellano 46); Montoro, Mesa; Nili (El Zhar 72), Viera, Momo; Willian Jose

Real Madrid: Navas; Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Arbeloa; Isco (Kovacic 46), Modric (Marcelo 90), Casemiro; Vazquez, Ronaldo, Bale (Jese 79)

Referee: Fernandez Borbalan