Stymied by the goalkeeper, Vinicius Junior has turned playmaker to set up a late breakthrough and help Real Madrid win at Osasuna 2-0 in the Spanish league.
Vinicius, back from a one-game suspension, led Madrid's attack on Saturday while Karim Benzema rested ahead of Tuesday's game at Liverpool in the Champions League round of 16.
Vinicus has emerged as Madrid's top scorer with 16 across all competitions. But he failed to beat Osasuna goalie Sergio Herrera in three one-on-one situations before assisting Federico Valverde to score in the 78th minute at El Sadar Stadium.
Luka Modric played Vinicius clear down the left side of the area. Two defenders hemmed him in, but the Brazil forward flipped a pass to Valverde arriving in a second wave to steer into the net.
Marco Asensio added a second goal in injury time after 18-year-old Alvaro Rodriguez stole the ball and assisted his fellow substitute.
"Vinicius is a player who always makes the difference," Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. "He doesn't stop attacking, doesn't stop dribbling at rivals, he is an incredible talent.
"This was an important win to keep us in the league race."
The hard-fought victory closed Madrid's gap with Barcelona to five points before the leaders host Cadiz on Sunday.
Ancelotti was without three regular starters. Rodrygo started for Benzema. Eduardo Camavinga anchored the midfield with Aurelien Tchouameni ill, and Dani Ceballos filled in for Toni Kroos, who also rested.
Osasuna, who drew at Madrid 1-1 in October, caused Madrid problems all game. Moi Gomez, Osasuna's most incisive player, went close to scoring in the 63rd when the midfielder cut back outside the area and struck the post.
Osasuna goalie Herrera was poised to be the player of the match until Valverde finally beat him for his 12th goal of the campaign.
An own goal in the final moments cost third-placed Real Sociedad a 1-1 draw at home with Celta Vigo.
Mikel Oyarzabal drove in a pass by Take Kubo to give Sociedad a fifth-minute lead. But Celta were gifted a stoppage-time equaliser when Sociedad defender Robin Le Normand inadvertently redirected a cross into his own net.
Sergio Canales set up one goal and scored another from the penalty spot to lead a 2-1 win over Valladolid and help fifth-placed Real Betis close to within one point of Atletico Madrid in fourth.
Canada forward Cyle Larin briefly pulled the visitors level in the 30th with his third goal in four appearances for Valladolid since arriving on loan from Club Brugge last month.
Mallorca rolled over 10-man Villarreal 4-2 for their biggest win since Javier Aguirre became the coach last year.
The team from the Balaeric Islands had never scored more than two in a game against a top-flight team since Aguirre took over in March 2022.
Trailing 1-0, Villarreal lost Manu Trigueros to a direct red card when he swiped at the face of a rival following a collision.
Midfielder Dani Rodriguez led Mallorca with two goals, both from headers.
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