Vinicius Junior came to Real Madrid's rescue as a sluggish start to their LaLiga season continued with a 1-0 home win over Real Valladolid on Thursday morning (AEST).
Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Real Sociedad in their opener and then required a late Sergio Ramos penalty to beat Real Betis on Saturday, and a lack of cutting edge threatened to prove costly on their return to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Luka Jovic – a reported Manchester United target – was particularly guilty, missing two golden chances before the break.
But Vinicius was sent on in place of the struggling striker with just over half an hour remaining and snatched a precious winner to send Madrid level with leaders Getafe.
The frustrating tone was set early as Roberto made an instinctive stop to keep Madrid at bay in the 10th minute, springing to his right to turn Federico Valverde's cushioned volley around the post.
Jovic helped craft that chance, but the former Eintracht Frankfurt man soon squandered a huge opportunity of his own as he inexplicably missed the target when found in front of goal by Valverde.
He was wasteful again 10 minutes before half-time, lashing past the left-hand post following a smart Luka Modric touch.
The Serbia forward saw a header saved by Roberto after the restart, with Casemiro slamming the rebound against the crossbar, before a subsequent chance for Shon Weissman – who was denied by Thibaut Courtois – provoked Zinedine Zidane into a triple-change.
Jovic was among those to make way and that move prompted the opener, with Vinicius profiting on a deflection in the area to finish coolly.
Courtois had to be alert to parry away a wayward Raul Garcia cross, yet Madrid might have added to their lead in the closing stages as Modric exposed Roberto's poor positioning but struck the base of the upright.
What does it mean? Madrid doing just enough
Madrid played some good football in the closing stages of last season as they clinched the title, but they are just getting by in the opening weeks of the new campaign. They were comfortable in terms of possession, enjoying 63 per cent, while they had five shots on target, yet Zidane will hope more straightforward victories are to follow.
Courtois kept busy
The chances that fell Jovic's way could have seen Madrid home and dry by half-time, but Courtois had to step up with his outfield team-mates wasteful. The Belgium goalkeeper pulled off five saves in all, with three of them coming at crucial ventures, most notably a fine stop from Weissman at 0-0.
Luka's luck not turning
Jovic may eventually get a second chance at Madrid if he returns from an expected loan move away, but this performance summed up his spell at Los Blanco so far. The 22-year-old has scored just twice in all competitions for Madrid but had three chances to improve that tally here. Only one of his trio of efforts hit the target and he was replaced after 58 minutes.
Madrid are in LaLiga action again on Sunday at Levante, while Valladolid host Eibar a day earlier.