Marco Asensio nets another wonder-goal, gets 8/10 for Real vs. Las Palmas
Real Madrid eased to victory over a Las Palmas side languishing in the bottom three but who left the team bus at the gates and came to give the champions a game at the Bernabeu. Goals from Casemiro, Marco Asensio and Isco ensured that the gap to Barcelona remains at eight points while also handing their manager a bit of respite after consecutive losses.
Zinedine Zidane needed a win by whatever means, fair or foul, and got something in between. There were some encouraging individual performances and, although far from a polished display against a side that had lost their last six, Real played well in the second half and should have embellished the score line even further in the closing stages.
Zidane's forwards once again failed to get on the score sheet and there was occasional panic at the back before Asensio made it 2-0. On one occasion, Jonathan Calleri got a header away under no pressure with five players watching the flight of the ball over their heads.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Zidane persisted with his 4-3-1-2 despite all evidence that his players are more comfortable in a 4-3-3, whatever the personnel. Last season the Real boss strayed from the latter just nine times in the league. This campaign he has used it on only three occasions. If Zidane is hinging a renaissance on the availability of Gareth Bale and the BBC suddenly finding world-beating form, the Bernabeu has cause for concern.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 6 -- Did enough to deny Vitolo and that was the keeper's only intervention -- other than dashing out to clear a wayward back-pass -- until a regulation stop halted Las Palmas' final attack.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Saw plenty of the ball in the opposition half and sent a decent effort whistling just high on the half-hour. Solid at the back, little got past Nacho on the right.
DF Jesus Vallejo, 7 -- Coming in for Raphael Varane, Vallejo was assured on his Liga debut and mirrored his senior colleague's positional awareness, anticipation and speed in covering the lines. Alert to boot Casilla's half-save out of danger, he also cut out a four-on-three break while backtracking.
DF Sergio Ramos, 7 -- A late shot was tipped onto the bar by Raul Lizoain, via a deflection off Ximo Navarro, as the captain ventured forward with the game won. Led by example at the back and applied just enough pressure to distract Vitolo without conceding a penalty.
DF Marcelo, 6 -- An improvement on a dreadful performance against Tottenham, but it could scarcely have been much worse. A little over-enthusiastic to get forward late on, leaving space for Las Palmas to exploit, Marcelo worked the overlap to good effect and sent in a decent cross for a Ronaldo chance.
MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Also struggling to find his best form, Kroos was a little flustered at times against a packed midfield but launched a few attacking moves and drew a splendid save from Raúl with a vicious, swerving shot.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Broke the deadlock with a header after reading a Calleri flick-on from a corner. Bustling as usual, few opposition players escaped Casemiro's attention as he racked up a game-high five tackles and Zidane removed him early to avoid a suspension against Atletico by incurring a caution.
MF Isco, 7 -- Went in the book for an ugly challenge on Vitolo but ended up on the score-sheet after a sweeping break. Always looking to get on the front foot, Isco tried to create openings and kept Las Palmas busy in the opposition half but also gave the ball away a little too often.
FW Marco Asensio, 8 -- Did not take a lacklustre Madrid by the scruff of the neck as he had earlier in the season but was a cut above his teammates, flitting between positions in a nominal No. 10 role. But all that really matters is that a once-in-a-career strike for most players is becoming just another day at the office for Asensio.
FW Karim Benzema, 4 -- Zidane will be grateful to have his misfiring striker to himself for two weeks. A golden opportunity went begging in the fourth minute when he shot tamely at Raul and he failed completely to connect with a pinpoint Asensio cross, to jeers from the stands. Benzema does not warrant a place in the team on current form.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 6 -- It simply will not go in for Ronaldo, who hit twice as many shots as any other player. Narrowly missed Raul's far post in the first half and should have buried an effort on the turn in the second. Ronaldo provided for his teammates, first Benzema, then Kroos, and squared for Isco for Real's third, but still the net eludes him.
MF Marcos Llorente 6 -- On for Casemiro, tidy enough.
FW Lucas Vazquez, NR -- On for Benzema, applied his usual energy to the task.
MF Dani Ceballos, NR -- On for Kroos, was immediately flattened by Navarro, who was lucky not to get his marching orders.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.