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Battling win at Alaves could prove vital in Real Madrid’s LaLiga quest – Zidane

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane feels his side’s battling 2-1 win at Alaves could prove an important victory in their quest for the LaLiga title.

With the rain driving down at the Mendizorrotza Stadium, Los Blancos took the lead through captain Sergio Ramos early in the second half.

The defender, though, then conceded a needless penalty when he caught Joselu in the face with his trailing arm, and Lucas Perez equalised from the spot.

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Real Madrid dug deep to get themselves back in front when Dani Carvajal bundled the ball in from close range after Isco’s header hit the post.

Alaves forced a string of corners during the closing moments, as Perez’s point-blank effort was blocked and then a header from Manu Garcia was saved by stand-in goalkeeper Alphonse Areola.

Zidane’s side move three points clear of Barcelona, who are away at Atletico Madrid on Sunday.

The Real Madrid boss believes the performance against Alaves may yet prove a key result.

Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal (centre) celebrates

Real Madrid recovered quickly after captain Sergio Ramos (right) gave away a penalty (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

“It is clear that winning a match like today is important. A difficult pitch, with a rival who was doing well,” the Real Madrid coach said.

“The league is long, but this is a very important three points, especially with how the game went.

“After they equalised, we had to suffer, but we played with lots of personality and were really focused. We knew that we had to fight and we did it.”

Zidane added at a press conference: “Today can be a benchmark in the sense that we want to continue to grow.

“Now we have peace of mind to continue working because things have just begun. There is a lot left in the league and a lot left in the season also.”

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Zidane opted for a few changes following the midweek Champions League match against Paris St Germain, where the French champions fought back with two late goals to draw 2-2 at the Bernabeu.

Gareth Bale was drafted in for a first start since early October, while Areola replaced first-choice goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with Luka Modric also returning to the team. Eden Hazard, though, continues to nurse an ankle problem.

“We play every three days and today I have made this choice, and the players have responded well,” Zidane said.

“The important thing is that they are all plugged in and that is what they are showing me every week.”

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Alaves coach Asier Garitano felt his side had done enough to take something from the match.

“We thought we were going to have been able to add something positive against Real Madrid,” he told a press conference, as reported by Marca.

“After the equaliser, I thought we were going to go on to more, but our opponents punished us with the second goal.

“We played a good game, but we are leaving empty handed.”