With a 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano seeing them go joint-top of the La Liga table, Real Madrid made it four wins on the bounce in all competitions.
Buoyed by their derby win over Atletico Madrid last weekend, the hosts came into this contest. In the opening exchanges, however, the tourists were stronger until they were left with a mountain to climb after a moment of madness.
Raul Garcia – handed a start after four matches on the bench by Gaizka Garitano – barely repaid the confidence of his coach as in just the 7th minute he was handed a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Toni Kroos.
Six minutes later, with Kroos once again on the receiving end of a bad tackle, the former Atletico Madrid midfielder was at it again, leaving referee Jesus Manzano with no option but to give him his marching orders.
Real Madrid struggled to exercise their dominance despite the advantage until Vinicius was denied in the 40th minute by Unai Simon’s point-blank save.
Toni Kroos broke the deadlock with an excellent shot from 25 yards to put Real Madrid 1-0 up just as it seemed like both sides were going into the break all square.
Athletic Bilbao came out strongly for the second half and got the goal their play deserved when Ander Capa was on hand to score on the rebound after Thibaut Courtois had parried his initial shot back into his path seven minutes into the second half.
Almost instantly, Real Madrid had the ball in the back of the net, but Vinicius Junior was rightly called back for offside.
In the 64th minute, Zinedine Zidane made two changes, with Marco Asensio replacing Federico Valverde and Isco coming on for Vinicius, and soon the hosts regained their advantage.
They would have fantasized about their chances of putting Real Madrid on the backfoot in the match, despite Athletic Bilbao’s bright start to the game.