Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos 8/10 as Real Madrid sneak a win at Huesca
Real Madrid's first-ever La Liga visit to Huesca's El Alcoraz stadium brought a workmanlike 1-0 win. Gareth Bale volleyed Madrid ahead after just nine minutes and Santi Solari's side thereafter did just enough to gain the three points, which lifted them to fourth in the Primera Division table.
Bale's first La Liga goal in over 100 days -- and 40 shots -- will quiet some of his local critics. A second away La Liga clean sheet of the calendar year should help with confidence at the back. Faith in youngsters was again shown by sending in 20-year-old Fede Valverde ahead of the more experienced Isco at 1-0 up.
Madrid's attack created very little against a Huesca defence that has conceded over two goals a game previously this season, with Karim Benzema particularly quiet. Huesca's attack has not been great either, and Solari's team again got lucky when former Castilla midfielder Gonzalo Melero somehow headed wide from point-blank range early in the second half.
Manager Rating out of 10
7 -- Having called before the game for a "serious" performance from his team, Solari saw them start strongly and control the first half. After the break his like-for-like substitutions helped them see out the victory. Just a second away win in La Liga this season was welcome, but surely the European champions can aim to play better than this.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- A flying first-half stop from Huesca's Chimy Avila in the first half and a tip over from Ferreira after the break brought another clean sheet, which is useful in showing why he continues to start ahead of the unsettled Keylor Navas.
DF Alvaro Odriozola, 7 -- Provided the pinpoint cross from which Bale opened the scoring early, while Huesca were not the first opponent to successfully target space left when he raids forward.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- Slowly coming back to form, his speed across the ground was useful when Huesca threatened to break.
DF Sergio Ramos, 8 -- A more reserved, and therefore better, performance for the Madrid captain who did simple things correctly. Was often in the right place at the right time when Huesca put plenty of high balls into the box in the second half.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Deputised competently at left-back, with Marcelo not yet 100 percent fit, and provided a vital header clear off the line in added time. Risked a red card with an elbow raised last man challenge on Watford loanee Cucho Hernandez close to half-time.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- The newly crowned 2018 Ballon d'Or was quietly influential in midfield, especially in the first half, including one lovely nutmeg to get out of a tricky corner. But his influence waned after the break and he was unsurprisingly replaced when Huesca began to take over possession.
MF Marcos Llorente, 8 -- Won the ball back and played a clever pass to start the move for Real's goal, a standout moment of outstanding holding midfield play. Soon fit again Casemiro, approaching full fitness, should not expect to automatically return to the XI.
MF Dani Ceballos, 6 -- Fitful performance included a booking for a cruncher on Moi Gomez, but did not really get his passing game going and was first player withdrawn by Solari.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 6 -- Few Madrid players cover more grass, a trait Solari clearly recognises, but added little when in possession.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 -- Not as influential as recent games, often outnumbered by Huesca's three centre-backs. His performance was summed up by missing a relatively simple pass behind the defence that would have sent Bale clear.
FW Gareth Bale, 8 -- Expertly taken early volley to open scoring showed why Solari always wants the often questioned Welsh galactico in his XI. Twice tested Huesca keeper Aleksandar Jovanovic from long range and generally looked like Real's most dangerous attacker during his time on the pitch.
MF Federico Valverde, 7 -- Replaced Ceballos before the hour mark, another sign of how the young Uruguayan is climbing Solari's midfield pecking order. Used the ball simply and intelligently thereafter.
FW Isco, 6 -- One neat touch to set Bale clear was a reminder of his quality, but he wasn't really involved enough after replacing Modric with 25 minutes remaining.
FW Marco Asensio, N/R -- Replaced Bale late on and was mostly noticeable for one woefully misplaced pass which almost lead to a Huesca chance to equalise.