Astellar first 45 minutes of football was enough to lift Real Madrid to a 3-1 win over Eibar on Sunday evening at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano in Madrid.
Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo all found the back of the net in a superb display of football from Los Blancos in the first half, but coach Zinedine Zidane will no doubt be left worried by his team’s flat performance in the second half in which they were out-played by the Basque visitors.
Nevertheless, it was another three points for Real Madrid, who remain just two points behind league leaders Barcelona.
Rodrygo was the notable inclusion in the starting XI, meaning Isco was on the bench, while there was no room for Fede Valverde in midfield
Just like their Clasico counterparts at Barcelona, Real Madrid raced out of the gates after the prolonged layoff and were up 1-0 inside the first five minutes.
Karim Benzema received a pass on the left and battled with a trio of Eibar defenders, one of whom tried to clear the area, but the ball went right to Kroos and the German one-timed it into net for the goal.
Eibar stayed true to their style of keeping a high line in hopes of pressuring Real Madrid, but a misplaced pass led to a devastating counterattack that ripped open the Eibar defence.
Ramos intercepted a pass and played left to Benzema, who picked out Eden Hazard on the right and, with just Eibar goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic to beat, the Belgian crossed to the following Ramos, who had the easiest sweeps into net for a 2-0 lead.
Real Madrid were absolutely flying and Hazard and Benzema offered up more champagne football on the way to the third goal, combining with precision before an attempted clearance from Eibar fell to Marcelo, who fired a left-footed bullet that started outside the post and bent back inside the net to stretch it to 3-0.
Zidane‘s first change came during the break, as Ferland Mendy replaced Dani Carvajal.
Thibaut Courtois had not been busy in the first half, but he quickly found himself occupied in the second stanza, making a pair of saves, including on a well-hit effort from Edu Exposito.
Eibar were keen to take advantage of Real Madrid‘s lull and they pulled a goal back when Los Blancos failed to clear their lines and a Pablo de Blasis shot deflected off of Pedro Bigas before glancing off of Courtois and into net.
Three more changes came in the way of Eder Militao, Gareth Bale and Vinicius for Ramos, Rodrygo and Hazard, but it was Eibar brimming with belief and Courtois was called on again to stop Pedro Leon from making it two for the visitors.
The changes made by both sides had allowed Eibar to take control of the match, so Zidane countered by bringing in Fede Valverde for Luka Modric for the final 10 minutes to make sure there would be no late drama.
In the end it proved enough for the home side, who now shift their attention to Thursday’s date with Valencia.
3.- Real Madrid: Courtois; Carvajal (Mendy, min. 46), Varane, Ramos (Militao, min. 61), Marcelo; Casemiro, Modric (Fede Valverde, min. 84), Kroos; Rodrygo (Bale, min. 61), Benzema, Hazard (Vinicius, min. 61).
1.- Eibar: Dmitrovic; Rober Correa, Oliveira, Arbilla, (Burgos, min. 84) Rafa Soares (Bigas, min. 58); Sergio Alvarez, Edu Exposito, Cristoforo; Orellana (Pedro Leon, min. 57), De Blasis, Kike Garcia (Sergi Enrich, min. 57). (Inui, min. 78)
Goals: 1-0, min. 4: Kroos; 2-0, min. 30: Ramos; 3-0, min. 37: Marcelo; 3-1, min. 60: Bigas
Referee: Cuadra Fernandez (Balearic Islands).
Yellow Cards: Casemiro (Min. 47) for Real Madrid, Cristoforo (Min. 93) for Eibar
Red cards: None
Stadium: Alfredo Di Stefano