On an evening when nothing less than victory was acceptable, Real Madrid achieved little more than the bare minimum with a far from convincing victory over Deportivo La Coruna.
The visitors had plenty of chances to claim at least a share of the spoils, enjoying a particularly strong spell early in the second half when the teams were separated only by Isco’s first-half strike.
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 14, 2015
Karim Benzema later doubled the advantage but that failed to mask a disappointing display which left plenty to be desired in all areas and did nothing to lift
Madrid’s confidence ahead of Wednesday’s dangerous Champions League visit by Schalke.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti looked on the bright side, saying: “I told the players to be focused and motivated, and today was only about the result.
“We only played well in parts and it was difficult, but it was a strange week and we gave a good reaction after last week’s defeat.”
Deportivo had two early chances to deepen the sense of anxiety which pervaded the Bernabeu at the start of the game, with both opportunities falling to former Barcelona winger Isaac Cuenca, who had a near-post drive saved by Iker Casillas before curling a 20-yard strike narrowly too high.
When the next effort also fell to Deportivo as Lucas Perez had a low long-range strike saved by Casillas, a few whistles echoed around the vast stadium from home fans who had been expecting a faster start from Los Blancos.
Madrid’s ‘BBC’ strike force then started to find their rhythm as Cristiano Ronaldo crashed a left-footed strike against the crossbar before Gareth Bale also struck woodwork with a fierce drive which visiting keeper Fabricio brilliantly tipped onto the bar.
Then Bale rampaged down the right to cut back a low cross for Karim Benzema, whose shot was deflected just wide, before the deadlock was broken when another Bale cross was half-cleared to Isco, who steadied himself on the edge of the box before arrowing a beautiful curler into the far corner.
If the home fans expected the opener to be the signal for a flood of goals, they were disappointed as the remainder of the first half yielded no further clear chances, although Bale regularly threatened with pacey and purposeful surges down the right flank.
And the start of the second half got even worse for Madrid as Deportivo created a series of opportunities, firstly when a loose ball dropped to Celso Borges inside the penalty area and the Chilean midfielder fired a low shot against the base of the post.
Another opportunity came when frontman Oriol Riera saw his powerful header parried to safety by Casillas, before a goalbound volley from Perez was inadvertently blocked by a team-mate in an offside position.
The hosts were struggling to exert any pressure, with Ronaldo earning a few boos from disgruntled fans with a free-kick which flew a long way over the bar.
The Portuguese was involved in the second goal, though, receiving a pass from Alvaro Arbeloa and prodding it into the path of Benzema, who coolly lifted it over the advancing Fabricio with his left foot.
But to finish the game on a suitably worrying note, Madrid played out the final stages with 10 men after Marcelo suffered an ankle injury in a poor challenge from Laure.
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