Asensio’s fine individual goal spared Real Madrid’s blushes as Los Blancos left it late to beat a stubborn Granada and move six points clear at the top of La Liga.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side were hoping to bounce back after being dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao in midweek and having been held by Elche in La Liga last weekend, but had to make do without Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior and Casemiro.
Thibaut Courtois was called into action as early as the fifth minute when Antonio Puertas was released with a ball over the top but couldn’t find a way past the Belgium international.
That set the tempo for an entertaining first half that ended goalless, despite both teams creating several opportunities, with Granada showing as much attacking intent as their illustrious opponents.
Ancelotti fielded Isco in a false-nine role and he teed up Asensio whose 13th-minute shot was pushed behind by Luis Maximiano.
The crossbar came to Granada defender’s Carlos Neva rescue when attempting to clear Dani Carvajal’s teasing first-time cross and moments later Toni Kroos bent a shot agonisingly over the crossbar.
Granada remained a threat on the counter-attack and when Myrto Uzuni was put through on goal he ought to have scored but failed to generate enough power in his shot to beat Courtois.
Real Madrid continued to dominate possession, but chances dried up in the second half and by 65 minutes, Carlo Ancelotti had seen enough. He made a double substitution, introducing Eden Hazard and Jovic. The duo almost made an immediate impact, with the former setting up the latter who shot into the side netting.
Eventually the hosts’ pressure paid off when the deadlock was broken in the 74th-minute, courtesy of a fine effort from Asensio who left the goalkeeper rooted to the spot with his shot from outside the penalty area.
Victory moves Real Madrid onto 53 points, six ahead of second-placed Sevilla, while Granada remain 16th.
TALKING POINT – ASENSIO MAGIC RESCUES REAL MADRID
Low on confidence after a difficult week and without some of their best players, it seemed that Real Madrid were going to be held by their stubborn visitors. Los Blancos had toiled for much of the game and were even jeered by their supporters in the first half after yet another Granada chance.
In the end they required a moment of magic from Asensio, who had looked the most likely to make something happen all night. Enduring yet another frustrating season at the Bernabeu, this was a chance for the 26-year-old to finally stake a place in the side. He will be pleased with his contribution, as will Ancelotti, who must decide if he deserves a contract extension with just 17 months left remaining on his current deal.
MAN OF THE MATCH – ASENSIO (REAL MADRID)
Constantly popping up in space, Asensio was a thorn in the side of Granada all evening. He had threatened to find the net on a couple of occasions prior to his opener, which he celebrated by ripping his t-shirt off.
Real Madrid: Courtois 7, Carvajal 7, Militao 6, Alaba 6, Marcelo 7, Modric 7, Camavinga 5, Kroos 6, Asensio 8*, Isco 7, Rodrygo 6.. subs: Hazard 7, Valverde 6, Ceballos N/A, Jovic 6, Nacho N/A.
Granada: Maximiano 8, Quini 6, Sanchez 6, Torrente 6, Neva 7, Collado 6, Milla 6, Gonalons 7, Puertas 6, Suarez 6, Uzuni 6.. subs: Petrovic 5, Rochina N/A, Molina 5, Arezo N/A, Raba 5
5′ – BIG SAVE FROM COURTOIS! Real Madrid’s defence is caught flat footed as Puertas races onto a raking ball over the top and is through on goal! He gets plenty of power behind his half-volley but Courtois keeps it out with his foot. That could have been the moment for Granada!
31′ – OFF THE CROSSBAR! Kroos switches play with a great diagonal ball to Carvajal on the right flank. His first-time cross is dangerous and in a desperate bid to clear it, Neva hooks it onto his own crossbar.
36′ – CHANCE FOR GRANADA! Uzuni is played through by Suarez’s perfectly weighted through and this is a great chance for Granada… But his shot lacks conviction and it’s straight into the arms of Courtois.
66′ – CLOSE! Real Madrid’s substitutes link up immediately, with Hazard sparking an attack, gets the ball back and feeds the run of Jovic, who fires into the side netting.
74′ – GOAL! REAL MADRID 1-0 GRANADA (ASENSIO): The deadlock is broken! Asensio finds the corner of the net with a shot from 25 yards! The goalkeeper Maximiano must have been unsighted as he doesn’t move!