Dani Ceballos scored a brace on his full debut as Real Madrid battled to a scrappy 2-1 victory over Alaves in La Liga on Saturday.
Ceballos' pair of well-taken finishes before half-time took Madrid back to winning ways, although they had to survive Alaves hitting the woodwork twice once they had netted their first goal of the season.
Los Blancos were without Toni Kroos, Mateo Kovacic, Marcelo, Theo Hernandez, Karim Benzema and Jesus Vallejo, all of whom were injured, but Gareth Bale dropped to the substitutes' bench.
For Alaves, meanwhile, the match came too soon for new boss Gianni De Blasi, with first-team coach Javier Cabello still in caretaker charge.
Both sides could ill-afford to drop any more points, and it was Madrid that drew first blood as Ceballos – in his first start for Los Merengues – squeezed a low shot into Fernando Pacheco’s bottom-left corner.
Sergio Ramos nearly doubled the visitors’ lead after Cristiano Ronaldo cleverly chipped a free kick into the box, but the unmarked defender had his header saved.
Ronaldo then swung a volley towards goal from a corner, but his effort flew just over Pacheco’s crossbar.
The goalkeeper was again called into action to tip over Nacho Fernandez’s aerial effort, before the tempo died down, with Madrid playing keep-ball and giving Alaves the run-around.
Yet totally out of the blue on the Basques’ jerseys, a cross from the right picked out Manu Garcia, who flung an unstoppable header past Keylor.
Just three minutes later, however, Pacheco’s punch to clear a corner dropped in front of Ceballos on the edge of the box, and the midfielder connected with his volley sweetly to restore Madrid’s advantage just before the break.
Seconds into the restart, Rodrigo Ely’s towering header was saved by Pacheco, before the goalkeeper got down low to keep out Ronaldo’s rasping volley.
The No 7 then fizzed a shot across Pacheco but just wide of his former teammate, while Isco had a sliding finish blocked by the custodian after he sprung Alaves’ offside trap.
Ronaldo came even closer, when he shifted past his marker down the right, but even that wasn’t close enough as he blasted his shot onto Pacheco’s far post.
Sergio Ramos looked to have found the goal to kill the game off, but his bouncing header from a corner didn’t count as Ronaldo flattened his marker in the build-up.
The home side brought on Alfonso Pedraza for the final 25 minutes, and the former Leeds United winger almost made an instant impact, only for his volley from the edge of the box to deflect onto Keylor’s crossbar via Raphael Varane.
Former Alaves loanee Marcos Llorente was applauded onto the pitch, and those cheers almost turned into ruptures, when Pedraza got in behind and only had Keylor to beat, but his sliding finish trickled onto the post and away from goal.
Ronaldo’s afternoon ended with Pacheco tipping his angled strike around the post, but Madrid nonetheless held on for the three points.
Alaves 1-2 Real Madrid
Manu 40 (A) Ceballos 10, 43 (RM)
Alaves: Pacheco; Vigaray (Alexis 46), Maripay, Ely, Ruben Duarte; Daniel Torres, Manu; Burgui (Alfonso 66), Medran, Ibai (Sobrino 81); Munir
Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Nacho; Isco (Mayoral 90), Casemiro, Ceballos (Marcos Llorente 71); Vazquez, Ronaldo, Asensio
Referee: Undiano Mallenco
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