Real Madrid rebounded from their midweek Champions League embarrassment by securing a 1-0 home victory over lowly Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.
Karim Benzema, who limped off late on, struck in the 13th minute to ensure there was no repeat of the forgettable 3-0 loss to CSKA Moscow that summarily ended a run of four successive triumphs.
Marco Asensio had chances to put the result beyond doubt before Thibaut Courtois made a crucial double save in stoppage time, Santiago Solari's men returning to winning ways in time for Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final clash with Kashima Antlers.
They head to the United Arab Emirates two points shy of table-topping Barcelona, who visit Levante on Sunday, and with clean sheets in three straight LaLiga matches for the first time since September 2015.
Madrid began confidently in their bid to move on from the CSKA shock as Lucas Vazquez cut inside from the right and slipped through Benzema for the French forward's first goal in six games.
Chances came and went soon after the opener with Emiliano Velazquez heading marginally wide from a corner, before Stole Dimitrievski foiled Asensio in a one-on-one.
Rayo were fortunate to avoid additional damage before the break, Toni Kroos' left-footed drive cannoning into the post.
Dimitrievski denied Asensio for the second time five minutes after the restart while Sergio Ramos had a header ruled out for a marginal offside call as Madrid's wait for a second stretched beyond the hour.
They were never able to completely put the match to bed against their 19th-placed visitors and, after Benzema hobbled off, it was Courtois' time to shine, the goalkeeper well-placed to block both Alex Alegria's overhead kick and Velazquez's follow-up in a panicked conclusion.
What does it mean? Clear heads for Club World Cup
Madrid's mood needed a lift before the long journey to the UAE and three points on home soil will make the flight a whole lot more comfortable.
They can now concentrate solely on claiming silverware without having to worry about questions that might confront them upon returning to Spain.
Vazquez valuable in victory
On target against Valencia earlier this month, winger Vazquez made another impressive contribution here as he skilfully set up Benzema's opener, threatened to get on the scoresheet himself and was busy throughout.
Asensio out of sorts
Though undoubtedly talented, Asensio's failure to convert either of his two good chances will do nothing to quieten the critics.
The Spain international offered little else in his 70 minutes and, with just one league goal this term, it is perhaps understandable that he is beginning to feature more regularly in transfer rumours.
Key Opta Facts
- Madrid have won their last 17 LaLiga games against Rayo, their best streak against a single team in the competition.
- Benzema has scored six goals in 16 La Liga matches this season, one more than he had last term (five goals in 32 appearances).
- Madrid have scored 24 goals in 16 LaLiga games in 2018-19, their worst tally at this stage of a campaign since 1993-94 (also 24 goals).
Madrid meet Kashima in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and will hope to have a Club World Cup final to contest prior to their next LaLiga clash, which is away to Villarreal on January 3.
Rayo, meanwhile, have useful time to prepare for Levante's visit next Sunday.
24 de marzo 2019
|Kvitova, Wozniacki advance as Osaka bows out|
|Andreescu overcomes Kerber again to extend winning run|
|MLS Review: Zimmerman stunner sends Los Angeles top|
|Walker scores 36 points as Hornets shock Celtics in Charlotte|
|Kingsbury says ´everything´s on the table´ with number one pick|
|Zverev stunned by Ferrer as Cilic, Wawrinka lose|
|Half of Europe wanted him – Casemiro praises Madrid´s Militao capture|
|Irving joins Celtics greats in record book, then questions team´s strategy|
|Tite to consider Vinicius for Copa America|
|Casey clings onto lead ahead of Johnson|
|Sancho hails Sterling´s mentoring influence with England|
|Kean out to break records after netting maiden Italy goal|
|Grealish´s England chances would be helped by Premier League football – Southgate|
|Federer survives Albot test|
|Luis Enrique defends Morata after Norway misses|
|Glasgow and Munster march on in Conference A|
|Martinez salutes ´extraordinary´ Hazard ahead of 100th Belgium cap|
23 de marzo 2019
|Ramos: Luis Enrique has a wonderful philosophy|
|Schlupp puzzled by CAF mix-up|
|There is still nothing – Hazard dismisses reports of Real Madrid agreement|
|Lyon back to winning ways as Perpignan claim first home victory|
|McCarthy happy to take 1-0 win against Gibraltar|
|Hudson-Odoi and Sancho bringing ´raw mentality´ to England|
|Tite refusing to panic after woeful Panama draw|
|Italy 2 Finland 0: Young stars Kean and Barella inspire victory|
|Top seed Osaka dumped out of Miami Open by Hsieh|
|Spain 2 Norway 1: Ramos penalty gets La Roja up and running|
|Wasps keen on Edwards reunion|
|Liverpool title win would make me the happiest man in the world - Gerrard|
|Saracens cut Exeter´s lead with Harlequins victory|
|Injured Serena Williams withdraws from Miami Open|
|Yaha scores four as Catalans complete comeback to sink Leeds|
|Sagan´s Milan-San Remo dream continues to elude him|
|Patriots owner Robert Kraft ´truly sorry´ over scandal|
|Brazil 1 Panama 1: Paqueta´s first goal cannot prevent embarrassing draw|
|Gibraltar 0 Republic of Ireland 1: McCarthy starts second spell with underwhelming win|
|Warriors star Stephen Curry rested for Mavericks game|
|Harbhajan puts Kohli´s RCB in a spin in IPL opener|
|Axing Sunwolves will damage Asian rugby, claims CEO|
|Chiefs tame Bulls to claim first win of Super Rugby season|
|Low: Sane, Gnabry fit to face Netherlands|
|Northampton expect Hartley return this season|
|Alaphilippe claims first monument with Milan-San Remo win|
|It was only a friendly – Martino tempers expectations after winning start with Mexico|
|Bale ´raring to go´ for Wales|
|Fury-Wilder rematch not until 2020|
|Van Dijk preparing for ´special game´ against Germany|
|Burundi reach first AFCON at expense of Aubameyang´s Gabon|
|Netherlands can´t underestimate Germany, warns Koeman|
|Zion Williamson will not dunk on me, says UCF´s Tacko Fall|
|Anscombe wants Cardiff stay, says Blues coach|
|Thigh problem leaves Coman in doubt|
|Injured Ramsey withdraws from Wales squad|
|Walton wants Lakers to battle on after missing playoffs|
|Folau equals record as Waratahs end Crusaders streak|
|Mourinho targets June return to club management|
|Richarlison pays tribute to ´essential´ Silva|
|Zion out to avoid ´what ifs´ in March Madness|
|Crusaders & Waratahs honour Christchurch attack victims before Super Rugby clash|
|Wilshere targets West Ham return before end of the season|
|Roosters return to form to get off the mark|
|Vinicius and Neymar would get in any team - Casemiro|
|D´Antoni marvels at Harden´s 61: ´One of the best performances´|
|Folau equals Super Rugby try-scoring record|
|Kane hails ´incredible´ Sterling after Wembley hat-trick|
|Malinga to retire after T20 World Cup|
|LeBron: Lakers season ´not what we signed up for´|
|Elvira pulls clear in Kuala Lumpur|
|Lukaku ruled out of Belgium´s trip to Cyprus|
|Thunder stay tied with surging Clippers after big win over Raptors|