Toni Kroos scored a superb volley and assisted another goal as Real Madrid moved within two points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona by beating Cadiz 2-1 in their final match before the World Cup break.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side suffered their first loss of the top-flight season at Rayo Vallecano on Monday but returned to winning ways with a much-improved showing at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Eder Militao opened the scoring with a first-half header from Kroos’ cross on Thursday, marking the centre-back’s second goal in as many league games.
Kroos’ emphatic second-half strike meant Lucas Perez’s late goal proved irrelevant as Madrid closed the gap on Barca.
Alfonso Espino offered Madrid an early scare as his long-range strike clipped the top of the crossbar, before Federico Valverde fired narrowly wide at the other end.
A frenetic first half continued with tempers flaring for both sides before Militao headed Toni Kroos’ left-wing cross into the bottom-right corner five minutes before half-time.
Thibaut Courtois thwarted Ruben Sobrino from a rare Cadiz chance after the interval, before Kroos powered into the bottom-left corner stylishly from the edge of the area.
Luka Modric inexplicably missed an open goal to add a late third and was punished as Perez pounced on a spilled Courtois save, though Madrid held on for victory.
What does it mean? Los Blancos back on track
Madrid were a shadow of their usual high standards in their last two league outings and faced a three-match winless LaLiga run for the first time in two years — under Zinedine Zidane.
However, Ancelotti’s side bounced back to record just their second victory in five league games against Cadiz, who have won just three of their 38 top-flight visits to Madrid (D5 L30).
With the World Cup now taking centre stage, Ancelotti will be delighted to head into the break with victory before Madrid reconvene in their seemingly two-horse race for the LaLiga title with Barca.
Kroos will be an integral figure for Germany in their bid to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in the Middle East and the veteran midfielder offered a timely reminder of his qualities with his second-half strike.
The 32-year-old appeared to be everywhere for Madrid, assisting Militao’s header with one of his game-high four chances created, as well as regaining possession eight times — another game-leading figure.
Gonzalez struggles again
Cadiz coach Sergio Gonzalez must be pondering what he must do to taste victory against Madrid.
He has gone 11 games without defeating Los Blancos in LaLiga (D2 L9), more than against any other team in the competition.
Madrid are not in action until visiting Real Valladolid on December 31 after the World Cup in Qatar, while Cadiz travel to Real Union Club on Sunday in the Copa del Rey first round.