Real Madrid escaped from a largely uninspiring display with two late goals securing a fortuitous 2-0 win over Real Valladolid in Santiago Solari's first LaLiga match in charge.
Vinicius Junior came off the bench to force an own goal off Kiko Olivas in the 83rd minute before Sergio Ramos ensured the European champions finished a poor showing on an upbeat note with a penalty five minutes later.
5- No LaLiga defender scored more goals from the penalty spot in the last five league seasons than Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos (5). Protagonist. pic.twitter.com/Bfp9liW7hq— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 3, 2018
Valladolid had rattled the crossbar twice in the second half and will count themselves highly unfortunate not to have further opened the wounds inflicted during last weekend's El Clasico humiliation.
Solari, who replaced the sacked Julen Lopetegui following that 5-1 loss, presided over a 4-0 Copa del Rey victory over third-tier Melilla in the first match of his caretaker stewardship, but for the first 80 minutes this was a sobering reminder of the work needed to mend a misfiring side.
Marcelo's absence afforded Sergio Reguilon a LaLiga debut and the left-back, the target of Ramos' fury during a training ground incident last month, created early opportunities that Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both wasted.
The malaise eventually spread to the other end as only wasteful finishing from Antonito and Enes Unal prevented the home fans' whistles from growing louder.
Valladolid looked the more likely to break the deadlock after the interval with Thibaut Courtois' crossbar denying both Ruben Alcaraz and Toni Villa.
But it was to be a cruel end for the impressive visitors as Vinicius' heavily deflected shot left Jordi Masip with no chance, before Fernando Calero's sloppy foul on Benzema allowed Ramos to snap his side's five-game winless run in LaLiga, moving them temporarily to within four points of leaders Barcelona.
What does it mean? Reality dawning on Madrid
A performance that really merited little more than a loss must convince Florentino Perez to reassess his expectations after the Madrid president outlandishly claimed in the lead-up to the match that his club was still capable of winning every available trophy this season.
Reguilon a ray of hope
Clearly blessed with fine crossing ability, young Madrid defender Reguilon was a threat going forward and never less than assured defensively as he repaid the faith of long-time Castilla coach Solari.
34 - Reguilón completed 34 passes out of a possible 34 in the first half (100%), against Valladolid in his LaLiga debut. Accuracy. pic.twitter.com/bbNDKe1YlU— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 3, 2018
Benzema still off the boil
It will be impossible for any new Madrid boss to escape the reality that this team sorely needs a top-class competitor for Benzema who, even accounting for the penalty he won, must come in for scrutiny after squandering multiple opportunities.
Madrid can close in on the Champions League knockout rounds when they visit Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday, with a weekend trip to Celta Vigo to follow. Valladolid, meanwhile, have the entire week to prepare for Saturday's home meeting with Eibar.