Incisive Isco dazzles as Real Madrid escape Osasuna with hard-fought win
Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and Lucas Vazquez guided Real Madrid past a spirited Osasuna in El Sadar as Zinedine Zidane's side regained their position at the top of La Liga with a 3-1 win. Sergio Leon levelled the game in the first half with a well-taken goal but Osasuna were struck by a double injury blow that disrupted the plans of Petar Vasiljevic, whose side had been equal to the visitors in the opening half hour.
Karim Benzema was involved in two goals and Isco had an excellent game. Against a side that always makes life difficult for Real Madrid at home, Zidane's players battled to a hard-fought victory. Manuel Pellegrini, Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti all dropped points in Pamplona and the Frenchman avoided a similar fate.
Zidane's insistence on tinkering with his formation left the midfield out of shape and the back three's high line exposed in the first half, which Leon was happy to take advantage of.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Madrid managed the game well after going 2-1 up, but it was only after Zidane was forced to switch to a back four and push Isco into his natural position following Danilo's injury that the side started to play with confidence. The initial 3-5-2 spread confusion at the back but his decision to bring on James Rodriguez and drop Marcelo into a back four paid off.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Keylor Navas, 9 -- Navas made a string of fine saves from the boots of Leon to keep Real in the game and commanded his area well under Osasuna's aerial bombardment.
DF Raphael Varane, 8 -- The France defender was composed on the right of the back three and made several headed clearances while also showing a willingness to bring the ball out rather than giving it straight back to Osasuna.
DF Sergio Ramos, 8 -- On his 500th appearance for the club, Ramos was under more balls into the Real box than anyone else and was neat in his distribution, hitting the target with 93 percent of his 69 passes.
DF Nacho, 7 -- Nacho hardly put a foot wrong, made more tackles than any of his teammates on the left of the back three and proved his versatility by switching to the right when Real reverted to a back four.
MF Danilo, 6 -- The Brazilian lost the ball in the build-up to Osasuna's goal and cut a peripheral figure out on the right until he was forced off with a nasty-looking ankle injury in the second half, although he did put in a few challenges when Osasuna were controlling the midfield early on and targeting his flank.
MF Luka Modric, 6 -- The Croatian lacked his usual spark going forward and failed to create much danger in the attacking third, but he ran himself into the ground and chipped in with two tackles in midfield.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- A typically tenacious display from the Brazilian midfielder, who won seven aerial disputes and made four tackles and two interceptions as he chased down everything in midfield. He continues to be a little loose in possession, though, and gave the ball away more than any of his teammates and was not hugely accurate in his passing.
MF Isco, 9 -- A fantastic second-half display from the midfielder, who was active in defensive duties, incisive going forward and capped his evening with an excellent reading of the situation in the opposition area to score an opportunistic goal.
MF Marcelo, 7 -- Marcelo was almost playing as an out-and-out winger in Zidane's original formation and got behind the Osasuna defence on plenty of occasions but without creating many tangible chances for his forwards. Improved after returning to his usual habitat on the left of defence.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 7 -- Ronaldo took his goal well and had another glorious chance in a one-on-one with Salvatore Sirigu that the Osasuna keeper did well to divert. Looked to play Benzema in whenever he could and delivered a ball that the Frenchman should have buried with the score at 1-1.
FW Karim Benzema, 7 -- Benzema was involved in Real's first two goals and his ball for Ronaldo's opener was sublime. However, his miss in the first half was a howler. With Sirigu already on the deck and the goal begging, Benzema contrived to tap tamely into the keeper's gloves.
MF James Rodriguez, 6 -- On for Danilo on the hour mark, his first act was to pick up a yellow for a clumsy challenge on David Garcia. Played two inch-perfect through balls for Ronaldo and Vazquez late on.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 6 -- On for Benzema with 20 minutes to go, Vazquez could have scored under pressure from Oier and did so in stoppage time with a delicate chip, but until then the canterano had been strangely out of sorts.
MF Mateo Kovacic, NR -- On for Isco with a few minutes to go, Kovacic didn't have time to do much.
Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.