Isco kept Real Madrid’s LaLiga title charge on track with a virtuoso performance to rescue a 3-2 win at struggling Sporting Gijon.
The Spain international’s future has been a source of constant speculation this season and he was recalled to Zinedine Zidane’s first XI as one of nine changes from the Champions League win at Bayern Munich in midweek.
A superlative solo goal from the 24-year-old in the 17th minute got Madrid on terms, three minutes on from Duje Cop’s equally enjoyable opener.
On-loan Athletic Bilbao midfielder Mikel Vesga inventively made Sporting’s first and put them ahead again with his first LaLiga goal five minutes into the second half.
Alvaro Morata, leading the line as Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale sat out, headed his 12th league goal of the season for Madrid’s second equaliser and, with eight seconds of normal time to play, Isco screamed for the ball on the edge of the box and rifled an unerring strike into the bottom left corner.
The result puts the pressure back on Barcelona, who must beat Real Sociedad later on Saturday to avoid the gap at the summit being greater than three points when the Santiago Bernabeu hosts El Clasico next weekend.
Heartbroken Sporting are five points from safety with six games remaining and Rubi will wonder why it took the visit of the European champions to produce such a performance.
Lucas Vazquez powered over from Danilo’s superb left-wing cross when he should have opened the scoring – something Sporting did in style soon afterwards.
Vesga was the architect of his side’s first home goal against Real Madrid since October 1994, scooping a wonderful pass over the visitors’ defence and Cop followed the flight of the ball expertly before dispatching a left-footed volley beyond Kiko Casilla.
Sporting’s joy was short-lived as Isco was allowed a touch too much room inside the area, shuffled away from Carlos Carmona, skipped past Vesga and Fernando Amorebieta, and lashed a shot into the top corner for a similarly high-quality equaliser.