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.
19. Januar 2019
|DeMarcus Cousins scores 14 points in Warriors debut|
|´Don´t cry, you did really well´ - Serena consoles Yastremska|
|Andrade eyes Golovkin after defending middleweight title|
|WATCH: Cousins throws down thunderous dunk to open Warriors career|
|Serena sails into Australian Open last 16|
|Icardi will renew Inter contract - Nara|
|Mickelson maintains Desert Classic lead|
|Klopp dismisses Coutinho rumours|
|Osaka completes stunning comeback in Melbourne|
|Lakers guard Rondo cleared for full-contact practices|
|Solskjaer: Lukaku is big part of Man United squad|
|Napoli slam FIGC decision to reject Koulibaly appeal|
|We´re the hunters! - Kovac´s Bayern ready to chase down Dortmund|
|Chiefs safety Reid expected to play against Patriots|
|Chelsea not ready to rest Jorginho - Sarri|
|NFL receiver Fitzgerald has hole-in-one in round of golf with former president Obama|
|I´m really loving playing this game - Eagles QB Foles not ready to retire|
|Saints show no mercy, score 111 in rout of Timisoara Saracens|
|CAF Champions League Review: Khenissi double gets ES Tunis up and running|
18. Januar 2019
|Edinburgh clinch home quarter-final, Glasgow also advance to last eight|
|Hazlewood to miss Sri Lanka Tests with back injury|
|Norwich City 3 Birmingham City 1: Canaries end winless run to go second|
|Hoffenheim 1 Bayern Munich 3: Goretzka goals close gap on Bundesliga´s return|
|Cowboys part ways with offensive coordinator Linehan|
|Payton´s message to Saints fans: Hurry up and make noise|
|Transfer talk no distraction for Inter, says Spalletti|
|Memories of 2015 still linger for Vunipola as England begin World Cup year|
|De Bruin´s 85th-minute try consigns Kings to eighth straight loss|
|Bielsa´s Derby County dossier detail ´pretty standard´ – OptaPro chief|
|Injury-hit Madrid lose Navas to adductor issue|
|Patriots coach Belichick still gets nervous ´every week´|
|Copa del Rey draw: Barcelona to meet Sevilla in quarter-finals|
|Kohli: No one more committed to India than Dhoni|
|Brook questions Khan credibility following Crawford agreement|
|Sad Pochettino admits Bielsa is ´wrong´|
|Simeone eyes LaLiga gain after Atletico´s Copa del Rey pain|
|Rossi a no-go for Tottenham as Pochettino rules out panic buys|
|Guardiola identifies ´three or four´ midfield targets|
|Nadal encourages patience in young stars after humbling De Minaur|
|NFL playoffs 2019: 10 Opta facts for Patriots v Chiefs|
|Robertson helping Klopp learn Scottish for Dalglish chats|
|Levante appeal over alleged ineligible Barcelona player rejected|
|NFL Playoffs 2019: 10 Opta facts for Rams v Saints|
|Lowry to take three-shot Abu Dhabi lead into final round|
|Training is not for anyone else - Klopp condemns Bielsa over ´spygate´ row|
|In other countries, everybody does it - Guardiola respect remains for spying Bielsa|
|Cilic battles back to join Nadal, Federer in fourth round|
|Klopp: Trent unbelievable for playing through pain|
|Faulkner provides super start and fabulous finish to sink Scorchers|
|Ref admits error in key foul call on Lonzo Ball in Lakers-Thunder game|
|Marina Granovskaia is working very hard – Sarri ´confident´ of January signings|
|Tuchel confirms Rabiot out of PSG contention|
|Madrid derby kick-off confirmed for February 9|
|Benzema fit to face Sevilla despite broken finger, Solari confirms|
|Bournemouth boss Howe says no offers received for Wilson|
|Kerber cruises after Wozniacki, Sabalenka upsets|
|Mbappe a great player and great person, says beaming Beckham|
|Gracia confident someone will step up if Doucoure leaves for PSG|
|Albrighton signs new Leicester deal|
|Niasse joins Cardiff on loan from Everton|
|Hendrick credited with Fulham strike|
|Western Sydney Wanderers 1 Adelaide United 2: Goodwin compounds Wanderers woes|
|Chahal and Dhoni carry India to ODI triumph|
|Levante report Barcelona for alleged use of ineligible player in Copa del Rey|
|Solskjaer regrets Sanchez´s Reading setback|
|Tomic brands Hewitt a ´liar´ as feud continues|
|Ruthless Nadal thrashes teenager De Minaur|
|Wozniacki enjoyed status as defending champion in Melbourne|
|Solskjaer backs Mourinho to return to football´s big time|
|Murray to miss Open 13 Marseille|