An unfamiliar Real Madrid side downed Leganes 4-2 at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque on Wednesday to move back ahead of Barcelona into top spot in La Liga.
A madcap opening half saw Real cruise into a 3-0 lead through James Rodriguez's strike and an Alvaro Morata double before Leganes pair Gabriel and Luciano cut the deficit to just one.
Martin Mantovani's own goal just after the break eased the pressure on Real, and although they continued to look vulnerable, Los Blancos eventually earned all three points against their Madrid rivals.
Barca's easy 3-0 win over Sevilla earlier on Wednesday had briefly seen Real pushed into second in the league standings.
Both Real and Leganes provided their lineups ahead of kick-off, with manager Zinedine Zidane making wholesale changes to his side and leaving out the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Toni Kroos:
Aquí tenéis a los valientes pepineros que hoy defenderán el sueño de una ciudad #LeganésRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/r6IFFIxghn— C.D. Leganés (@CDLeganes) April 5, 2017
Leganes looked robust in the first 15 minutes, but then a moment of brilliance from Marco Asensio opened the hosts up to create the first goal.
The 21-year-old Spaniard intercepted the ball on the halfway line and drove to the six-yard box past two defenders before squaring for James to tap the ball into an open net.
Three minutes later, Morata headed his first from the back post, looping the ball home from a very tight angle after Nacho nodded on a corner.
The Spaniard then netted Real's third with a sweeping finish from the edge of the box having received Mateo Kovacic's fine through ball, per football writer Dermot Corrigan:
3-0 Madrid. Just 22 mins gone. Morata with lovely clipped finish from super Kovacic slipped ball behind defence.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) April 5, 2017
It looked as though the game was done barely halfway through the first 45 minutes. But Real's young side then relaxed too much and Leganes started to carve out opportunities.
Excellent work from Diego Rico down the left result in Gabriel poking home the hosts' first after a cut-back in the 32nd minute.
And two minutes later, the comeback was well and truly on as Luciano reacted fastest in the box to a poor knockdown from Sergio Ramos—Nacho was also culpable for needlessly playing the Brazilian forward onside.
The half finished with Leganes continuing to threaten, and Opta illustrated just how open Real had been in the first 45 minutes:
10 - Real Madrid conceded 10 shots vs Leganes, more than in any other first half of a La Liga game this season. Relaxation. pic.twitter.com/iwdjv7xhu3— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 5, 2017
Los Blancos restored a two-goal cushion just three minutes after the break. Asensio cleverly drew a free-kick on the edge of the box and James' delivery was deflected home for an own goal by Mantovani's outstretched hands.
Per Marca, it initially looked as though Morata got a touch for his hat-trick, but it was not to be:
It appears Real's fourth goal will go down as Mantovani own goal.— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) April 5, 2017
Morata remains on the hat-trick hunt.
LIVE BLOG: https://t.co/NPFW7GjAI2 pic.twitter.com/I1C1VDlGq5
Real continued to look sloppy, though, and it was not until Zidane called for reinforcements late on—Luka Modric and Isco were both thrown on—that they finally regained control.
It was a spirited performance from Leganes, who provided a tougher test for Real than many would have expected, but Zidane's men eventually eased back to the top of the table with a win.
Real now face the prospect of a Saturday derby against Atletico Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, and Nacho said Los Blancos will take huge confidence into the clash, per La Liga:
🎙 Nacho: "In this team we are all important. We go into the derby in form and feeling strong psychologically."#LeganesRealMadrid pic.twitter.com/6ERaPjdqZM— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) April 5, 2017
Leganes face bottom club Osasuna next up on Sunday, and a victory would go a long way to guaranteeing their La Liga status for next season.