Madrid, May 1 (EFE).- Reigning LaLiga champions Real Madrid had to work hard Saturday for a 2-0 victory over Osasuna to stay within striking range of current leaders Atletico Madrid with just four matches left to play.
The hosts had 66 percent possession and outshot 11th-place Osasuna 22-3, but visiting goalkeeper Sergio Herrera delivered a heroic performance to keep the Blancos at bay for more than 75 minutes.
Safe from relegation and with no hope of claiming a Europa League spot, Osasuna played with a surprising degree of freedom, which in turn created space for a Real Madrid starting 11 that included four attackers.
Zinedine Zidane has insisted throughout this pandemic-stressed season on rotating his players. With an eye on next Wednesday’s Champions League semifinal second leg against Chelsea, the Blancos coach opted to rest Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.
Alvaro Odriozola and Vinicius combined to create a chance for Marco Asensio in the 16th minute, but he fired high.
The Blancos’ Thibaut Courtois made the first save, thwarting Manu Garcia in the 23rd minute, two minutes before Herrera got his fingertips to a strike from Eden Hazard.
The Osasuna keeper barely had time to catch his breath before Eder Militao got his head to an Asensio cross and Herrera had to tip the Brazilian’s flick-on over the cross-bar.
In the final minute of first-half regulation, Osasuna’s Chimy Avila beat Courtois with a lunging header, but the goal was disallowed for offside and the teams went to the dressing rooms level at 0-0.
Nine minutes into the second half, Jon Moncayola created problem for Courtois with a shot from well out outside the area and Nacho needed to act quickly to deal with the danger.
Militao was too high again with a volley off an Asensio free kick in the 56th minute. Rodrygo sent a strike just wide of the post in the 67th after coming on as a sub for Vinicius.
With 18 minutes left in regulation, Zidane pulled Hazard in favor of Isco Alarcon, who validated the decision four minutes later by delivering an excellent corner into the box for Militao to head past Herrera.
Casemiro nailed down the victory in the 80th minute, besting Herrera in the one-on-one battle to make it 2-0.