Karim Benzema had to wait. He stood over the ball for nearly a minute before taking the penalty, left to ponder his spot kick while cards were flashed around him. But when the whistle blew, Benzema was clinical, striding up to the ball and stroking it into the bottom corner.
His goal saved Madrid after a tepid showing against 15th-placed Valladolid. Real were on the back foot for long periods, and relied on the sharp reflexes of Thibaut Courtois to keep them in the game. And on his return, Benzema wasn't exactly sharp early on.
He fired over from close range, and Madrid had a penalty shout denied to mark a morbid first half for the away side. Meanwhile, Valladolid were dangerous on the break. They found holes in a makeshift Madrid midfield trio, testing an often sloppy backline for most of proceedings. Still, thanks to Courtois, they never found the back of the net, and their visitors made them pay. Benzema scored twice in the last 10 minutes, once from the spot and again following a flowing counter attack to make a tricky game seem routine.
This was never likely to be an easy contest for Los Blancos. With 12 of their players coming back from Qatar and in front of a hostile home crowd, here was a game near-destined to be uncomfortable. And Valladolid ensured it would be a tricky one.
Still, Madrid posted a mostly assured performance. Courtois kept them in it, and their star striker found the net twice. For all of the sluggishness of the first half and anxiety of the second, they picked up a win. And in a La Liga title hunt, it's the points that really matter.