Three points to pull Real Madrid up the table were just what the doctor ordered but the supporters at the Santiago Bernabeu knew their team’s performance in the 2-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday was nothing to get excited about.
Interim coach Santiago Solari made it two wins in two games and young starlet Vinicius Junior made a decisive impact coming off the bench, but that could not cover up Madrid’s many problems, all of which were in evidence during another listless Liga display.
Whistles were a recurring theme among a frustrated fan base facing their team for the first time since the 5-1 Clasico drubbing at Barcelona last weekend which saw Julen Lopetegui fired and Solari installed as his successor on a temporary basis.
The positives, beyond ending a run of five league games without a win, were limited to the impact of Vinicius off the bench and Sergio Reguilon’s impressive performance at left-back in place of the injured Marcelo.
The Spanish defender, 21, was precise with his passing, dangerous with his crossing and defensively solid, while 18-year-old Vinicius helped force the breakthrough with a wild shot that was deflected into his own net by Kiko Olivas.
That’s where the up-sides end, though, as this was a characterless performance from the struggling European champions.
Solari may have a 100 per cent winning record but Wednesday’s drubbing of third-tier Melilla said little worth reading into, while Valladolid hit the crossbar twice before Madrid eventually broke the deadlock on Saturday.
Indeed, they needed a lucky deflection to get off the mark before captain Sergio Ramos added a cheeky late penalty.
Certainly, nothing in this performance indicated Solari should be chosen by Florentino Perez as Madrid’s next permanent coach.
The way in which Gareth Bale ignored him as he walked off the pitch – substituted after an invisible showing – suggested that the Argentine might not have the requisite star status to lead a dressing room steeped in player-power.
After the Clasico capitulation, Ramos made it clear that Madrid players do not want a disciplinarian to come in and demand respect and autonomy, but that might be exactly what the club needs right now.
Karim Benzema continued to struggle up front, missing a golden opportunity to break the deadlock which Valladolid owner Ronaldo Nazario would have put away with relish.
Since the Brazilian bought a majority stake in the club they have been on an impressive run of form which saw them go into this game above his former side in the Liga standings.
On another day they might have left with the three points but Solari’s Madrid benefited from the luck which deserted Lopetegui at every turn.
When Vinicius’s wayward shot flew in off Olivas, Lopetegui would have been forgiven for wondering why he was never bestowed with such good fortune during his ill-fated five-month spell at the helm.
However, given the all-round weak showing before that moment, Solari is unlikely to be in the job for long himself.
Madrid need to appoint a coach who can invigorate the players, give the team character and a purpose.
That is no easy job and until it happens teams like Valladolid will keep coming to the Bernabeu knowing that they can win.