Karim Benzema and Marcelo scored as under-pressure Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui saw his team beat Viktoria Plzen 2-1 for their first win in six.
Lopetegui is rumoured to be on the brink of the sack at the Santiago Bernabeu after a dismal run in all competitions, but there was a timely victory for the reigning Champions League holders on Tuesday, albeit in unconvincing fashion.
While Plzen largely gave as good as they got, the recalled Benzema crucially broke the deadlock, scoring in a 14th consecutive Champions League season with a powerful early header.
A second from Marcelo followed, yet Patrik Hrosovsky pulled a goal back and Barcelona, Madrid's next opponents, would certainly have identified weaknesses ahead of El Clasico, which could have a huge bearing on Lopetegui's future.
Benzema provided a rare clinical moment in a first half packed with wasted chances, storming onto Lucas Vazquez's cross to open the scoring after 11 minutes.
Sergio Ramos had already nodded against the post and both Benzema and Isco failed to add to Madrid's advantage, the latter twice passing up opportunities inside the area.
There were clear openings at the other end too, though, with Plzen preying on Vazquez's poor positioning at right-back and going close on three occasions through Milan Petrzela, David Limbersky and Hrosovsky, who failed to hit the target with the goal gaping.
Jeers from the home crowd greeted missed chances at either end, the Madrid fans frustrated by their own side's profligacy and the ease with which their opponents marched forwards, while the early substitution of Isco was unpopular too.
Gareth Bale's flick teed up Marcelo for a dinked second goal to prompt some belated cheer in the stands, but Hrosovsky's long run and finish ensured a tense conclusion for both the supporters and Lopetegui, who would have been relieved to see his men claim three points.
What it means: A nervy few days for Lopetegui
Despite his pre-match protestations, Lopetegui must know he is in trouble. Some reports suggested the coach would be sacked regardless of the result against Plzen and, although his side won, this was not a performance that is likely to change many minds in Madrid. It is still not a given that Lopetegui will make it to Sunday's Clasico.
Benzema joins elite group with crucial goal
French forward Benzema netted in a 14th consecutive Champions League campaign on Tuesday. The only other two to achieve that feat? Lionel Messi and Raul. Dropped to the bench at the weekend, Benzema was wasteful at times against Plzen but his header at least eased the early tension.
Vazquez out of position and out of his depth
Lopetegui knew this was a game he and Madrid needed to win, but that did not necessarily mean the holders needed to go for broke. Selecting Vazquez at right-back was a strange choice and it very nearly cost the coach, his nominal winger exposed time and time again, rescued only by poor Plzen finishing.
Key Opta Facts
- Real Madrid have scored in each of their last 44 Champions League home matches, since a 2-0 loss to Barcelona in April 2011. Since then they have scored 127 goals at the Santiago Bernabeu.
- Vazquez has made more assists than any other Real Madrid player since the start of last season in all competitions (13).
- Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last 27 home Champions League group stage games (W24 D3), since a 3-2 loss to AC Milan in October 2009.
- Benzema is the fourth all-time top-scorer in the Champions League with 57 goals, surpassing Ruud van Nistelrooy (56).
- Madrid are the team with the highest possession figure (67% - level with Barcelona) and the most shots (77) in the Champions League this season so far.
- Federico Valverde has become the third Uruguayan player to feature for Real Madrid in the Champions League, after Carlos Diogo and Pablo Garcia.
For Madrid, it is the big one. With or without Lopetegui, they face Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday. Plzen have slightly more modest opponents in the form of Slovacko this weekend.
21. November 2018
|Argentina 2 Mexico 0: Icardi, Dybala score first international goals|
|Mickelson calls Tiger the greatest of all time|
|Durant fined $25,000 for using inappropriate language|
|Fizdale isn´t concerned about Knicks´ losing streak|
|No particular concern for Mbappe – Deschamps|
|PSG team-mate Choupo-Moting hopes Neymar injury is not serious|
|McLeish marvels at stylish Scotland´s promotion success|
|Draw proves Poland can play well without Lewandowski – Brzeczek|
|Giggs: Wales let themselves down|
|Sarachan ´moved USA forward´ in interim spell|
|Mickelson lays $200,000 bet with Woods for first hole|
|Dolphins QB Tannehill to start against Colts|
20. November 2018
|Murcia edge out Banvit, Bonn crush Opava|
|Neymar injury not serious, says doctor|
|Mancini: Italy ahead of schedule|
|France 1 Uruguay 0: Giroud hits the spot after Mbappe injury blow|
|Portugal 1 Poland 1: Milik penalty salvages precious point as Danilo sees red|
|Italy 1 United States 0: Politano snatches late winner for Mancini´s men|
|Scotland 3 Israel 2: Forrest hat-trick seals Nations League promotion|
|Brazil 1 Cameroon 0: Richarlison fills Neymar´s boots as skipper suffers injury|
|France & PSG star Mbappe suffers shoulder injury|
|Albania 1 Wales 0: Gunter´s night spoiled by Balaj|
|Leeds and Manchester United to meet in friendly|
|Outspoken Smith leaves Cavaliers|
|PSG star Neymar injured for Brazil|
|Juventus midfielder Can back in training after surgery|
|Rams-Chiefs rollercoaster was the NFL´s modern-day masterpiece|
|Ronaldo an AC Milan target in 2017, confirms Fassone|
|Farah could get back on track at Tokyo Olympics|
|PSG still waiting on Alves and Kurzawa|
|Atalanta reject Gasperini to AC Milan speculation|
|Edmonton Oilers name Hitchcock new head coach|
|JR Smith on Cleveland Cavaliers: Tanking ´was always the plan´|
|Chester signs new Wakefield deal|
|F1 Raceweek: Countdown on to Alonso farewell|
|Rain disrupts Lorenzo´s Honda debut|
|VAR a possibility for Champions League knockout rounds|
|FFP vulnerable in areas, says UEFA president Ceferin|
|Sri Lanka draft in uncapped Peiris to replace Dananjaya|
|Coman back in Bayern training but Lewandowski has knee injury|
|Qalandars land De Villiers in PSL draft, Smith second pick|
|F1 changes helped less talented drivers on the grid - Alonso|
|Agnelli: No super league talks since 2015|
|I hope from now on it only gets better - Floersch update on horror crash|
|Calf injury rules Ashton out of Australia match|
|Halfpenny to miss South Africa clash|
|Hard for Lazio to hold on to Milinkovic-Savic, says Lotito|
|Australia´s next generation pay tribute to retiring Cahill|
|Bairstow pushing hard for Test recall|
|Cane eyes 2019 Super Rugby return after neck break|
|Van Dijk finds time to console referee during Dutch delight|
|Cahill sheds tear at end of phenomenal Australia career|
|WATCH: Pelicans coach Gentry interviews himself|
|Where does Chiefs-Rams classic rank among NFL´s highest-scoring matches?|
|Australia 3 Lebanon 0: Boyle bags brace on Cahill farewell|
|Guendouzi underlines desire to represent France|
|I might need a couple of drinks to relax after that! - Rams coach McVay|
|Juventus´ Alex Sandro has Premier League ambition|
|Ederson taking goalkeeping to another level, says City hero Weaver|
|Ceferin dismisses "super league" plans as fiction|
|Rams defeat Chiefs in one of the highest scoring games in NFL history|
|Kemba Walker leads Hornets to win over Celtics|
|Gomez praises ´top player´ Van Dijk, Stones|
|Cricket Australia to maintain Smith, Warner ball tampering bans|
|Brazil´s Tite encouraged by Neymar captaincy|
|Holmes set for NFL switch after Cronulla release|
|Dier encourages English youngsters to follow Sancho´s lead|
|Southgate promises further changes to England squad|
|Jones sceptical over Pocock injury|
|Sane encouraged despite Germany´s ´annoying´ Nations League draw|