Keylor Navas again Real Madrid's best as Los Blancos sneak past Las Palmas
Las Palmas may have been just four points above the relegation mire ahead of the visit of Real Madrid on Sunday night, but Quique Setien's side had picked up 21 of their 30 points at the Estadio de Gran Canaria.
The former Atletico midfielder has been flexible with his formations but has settled in recent matches on a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-1-4-1. Barcelona found the latter set-up difficult to break down last month and Zinedine Zidane's side were extremely fortunate to eke out a 2-1 victory that handed the visitors three undeserved points while depriving Las Palmas of at least one in their struggle to avoid the drop.
The sight of eight white shirts grimly defending a one-goal lead is not the sort of image Real Madrid fans expect to see against a lower-half team. Las Palmas, though, have been punching above their weight for some time and can consider themselves unlucky to have lost out in a points decision to a Real side who have been incapable this season of trimming their weight or bulking up for varying categories of opposition.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Keylor Navas, 8 -- Is it "San" Keylor yet? The keeper made an excellent save from Willian Jose after a rare Luka Modric mistake and was alert to a Roque Mesa shot on the quarter hour.
DF Dani Carvajal, 5 -- A very lacklustre performance from the right-back, who didn't get forward as much as usual despite the safety blanket that Lucas Vazquez provides. Zero dribbles or tackles sums up Carvajal's evening.
DF Pepe, 6 -- The Portugal international made a good block at the start of the second half but picked up a yellow and a one-match suspension for a shirt pull on Willian Jose. Real needed an old head at the back when Las Palmas were pushing for the equalizer and Pepe delivered, keeping his when all around him lost theirs.
DF Sergio Ramos, 5 -- Ramos scored the opener with a header, expertly placed beyond Javi Varas. At the back, however, the captain was too often finding himself the wrong side of substitute Sergio Araujo and gifting the striker a free header in the second half. Ramos was also slow to react when Willian Jose was put through for the equalizer and was dismissed late on.
DF Alvaro Arbeloa, 5 -- A surprise inclusion, and a Jekyll and Hyde job from the occasional defender. Arbeloa was skinned in the opening minutes and had Pepe to thank for clearing the danger but redeemed himself by getting across to block on the right when the rest of the defence had switched off. He did the same by ushering the ball behind with an opponent closing in on the half hour after Real's defence had been split open again.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Casemiro would be saving matches week in, week out elsewhere. The Brazilian is still prone to over-exuberance in the challenge and picked up a caution for a shirt pull on Mesa, conceding a free kick in a dangerous position. But he was also in a good one to make a clearance off the line and an even better one to nod home the winner.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- In the absence of Toni Kroos responsibility for driving team the forward fell to Modric and he cut out several attempted clearances to get his side on the front foot. Modric was also on hand to cover at the back and delivered some good set pieces in a typically dynamic display.
MF Isco, 5 -- Isco made a good run to tee up Ronaldo in the first half but was far too loose in possession, particularly in his own half, and went in the book for an elbow-first challenge in the second period. The midfielder had a little strop in the dugout when his number came up but his ball retention skills have utterly deserted him and he offered little around the area as well. His corners were dangerous though and he landed the ball on Ramos' head for Real's first.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 7 -- Vazquez has earned his place in the starting XI and showed more willingness to battle for the ball than some of his more illustrious teammates. His burst through the back line to set up Ronaldo on the half hour mark displayed exactly the sort of energy that the side was lacking in general.
FW Gareth Bale, 5 -- Bale's hairdo caused him more trouble in the first half than he caused Las Palmas. The Welshman can't be accused of not being a big game player but he didn't look entirely up for a balmy Sunday night on Gran Canaria. He made a good run though the back four in the second half but fired high with his right foot. A dipping attempt off his left went close but there were no arguments from Bale when he was hauled off for Jese.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 5 -- Ronaldo should maybe have beaten Varas early on but this was another low-key performance from the Portuguese after his recent resurgence. Zidane won't be too bothered though as long as Ronaldo turns it on when needed in Europe. He might as well have left his star man back in Madrid on Sunday though. The centre forward experiment has run its course. Ronaldo needs to run in his preferred left channel.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 3 -- On for Isco with half an hour to go, Kovacic made a good block on the edge of the area but then inexplicably played a free kick across his own half with the game in the balance, facilitating Las Palmas' equalizer.
FW Jese, NR -- On for Bale, Jese started a run down the left and ended up laying off a one-yard pass to Ronaldo when he saw zero movement ahead of him. Not dragged down by his side's malaise, he went on to provide a cracking corner for Casemiro's winner.
DF Marcelo, NR -- On for Modric with 90 minutes on the clock, Marcelo might wonder why he wasn't given the night off as well.
Rob Train is a freelance writer who lives in Madrid and covers Real Madrid for ESPN. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.