A towering header from Karim Benzema gave Real Madrid an impressive 1-0 win at Sevilla to go level on points at the top of La Liga on Sunday, offering the perfect response to their recent humiliating Champions League defeat at Paris Saint-Germain.
Benzema gave the visitors the lead against former Real coach Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla midway through the second half in a tense game, timing his jump to perfection to meet a cross from Dani Carvajal on the byline and send the ball high into the net.
Sevilla's former Madrid striker Javier Hernandez put the ball in the net for the hosts late in the game but his effort was correctly ruled out for offside and Real hung on to claim their first win at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in five seasons.
The victory saw Madrid climb into second place on 11 points after five games, level with leaders Athletic Bilbao, while Sevilla tumbled from top spot at the start of the weekend to fifth on 10 points.
"Real Madrid never loses its hunger or its desire to win," captain Sergio Ramos told reporters.
"We knew how difficult this game would be, we hadn't won here for many years, but we arrived with a very strong mentality and intent on committing as few errors as possible. Apart from a couple of set pieces, we had the game under control."v
Real had lost their last four league visits to Sevilla's home ground and were thrashed 3-0 there last season, a game that spelled the beginning of the end for Lopetegui, who was sacked by the club little more than a month later.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane travelled to Seville facing serious questions about his own leadership of the team after they were hammered 3-0 by PSG in the Champions League, a game in which his side failed to have a shot on target.
"It's the game which leaves me the most satisfied since I came back, everyone on the pitch helped out," he said.
"We had difficult moments but we showed great solidarity with each other in those moments. We played 90 minutes at a top level at a very difficult stadium. This is a victory for the group and I'm delighted for everyone."
Sevilla's entire squad had recently returned from a gruelling 12,000-km round trip to Baku to face Qarabag in the Europa League and lacked their usual aggression and intensity as a scrappy game ensued.
Real right back Carvajal had the visitors' best chance before the interval, firing straight at goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik from inside the area, while Gareth Bale also tested the Czech with a stinging free kick.
Neither side looked willing to take a risk to try and take the lead but the deadlock was finally broken thanks to some clever teamwork from the visitors, as Bale released Carvajal down the right wing and Benzema produced the perfect finish.
The goal kicked Sevilla into life and they spent most of the remaining minutes pressing for an equaliser, but Real dug deep and stood firm to record their most significant victory since Zidane returned to the club as coach in March.
"We did what we came here to achieve and now we can relax again after everything that was said about us this week," added Ramos.
"This team is always optimistic, and we are going to get better. It's a long season and we're already joint-top of the league."