An under-strength Real Madrid team suffered a scare as they came from behind to beat Deportivo la Coruna 2-1 at the Riazor.
Bottom side Depor were the better side for the first hour, going ahead through Riki’s first-half strike, which beat Digeo Lopez at his near post.
But after a triple-substitution just before the hour mark saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira enter the field, Real dominated the latter stages as Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain added fine goals to claim victory.
Madrid’s win was marred by the idiotic dismissal of Angel di Maria late on, the Argentine picking up two bookings in a matter of seconds for repeatedly refusing to retreat for a Depor free-kick.
Di Maria will now miss the second of two Clasico matches next week, a Liga clash on Saturday afternoon.
Real boss Jose Mourinho fielded a makeshift side with Tuesday’s Copa del Rey match with Barcelona in mind, not to mention next weekend’s Liga showdown.
That was reflected in Los Merengues’ play, which was atrocious at times as Riki and Pizzi tore the visitors to shreds repeatedly.
Lopez had already spilled one Riki effort when the Depor forward popped up on the left and fired a quick but saveable drive at the near post: it flew past Iker Casillas’s stand-in and into the net.
Pizzi also hit a screamer just wide, seeing a similar effort headed off the line superbly by a flying Marcelo. Lopez made some smart saves to atone for his error, while Real were indifferent going forward, as Higuain looked sluggish.
Little changed after the break, so Mourinho acted, making one of his famous wholesale changes as he threw on Ronaldo and co.
The impact was immediate as Real laid siege on the Depor goal, pulling back to level terms as Kaka curled a fabulous strike inside the right-hand post with 17 minutes left.
Depor increasingly looked like a side collapsing in panic and, after Daniel Aranzubia saved one Ronaldo effort and the Portuguese star hit another one wide, they took the lead with three minutes left.
It was a fine goal, mostly for Kaka’s delightful pass to release Ronaldo on the left, with the former Manchester United forward easily picking out Higuain for a tap-in.
The job was complete when Di Maria had his ‘special’ moment, inexplicably getting himself sent off for a ridiculous display of petulance with the game won.
Mourinho must now decide how to punish the former Benfica winger, but he will not let it distract him from Tuesday’s Copa clash as Barca are well clear in La Liga.