When the going gets tough, José Mourinho can play his wildcard, otherwise known as Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese is a lifesaver and his two goals in the second half gave 10-man Real Madrid victory against an exciting Real Sociedad, lead by the superb Xabi Prieto.
Ronaldo got his under-fire coach out of the mess he made for himself, after Mourinho's decision to stick with Antonio Adán over Iker Casillas for the second league game in a row backfired when the reserve goalkeeper was sent off after just six minutes.
Real Madrid took the lead in the game in less than two minutes, with Karim Benzema, unexpectedly named in the starting line-up despite the much anticipated return of Gonzalo Higuaín, latching onto a pass from Sami Khedira to score.
The early goal looked to set up a comfortable afternoon for 'Los Blancos' but the game changed dramatically when Adán brought down Carlos Vela in the area and was shown a red card. Casillas was called into action, with José Callejón sacrificed, but the Madrid captain was unable to save Xabi Prieto's penalty, which drew the visitors level.
Real Sociedad kept the ball well but Madrid were able to exploit gaps in their opponents, who played attractive football but left themselves exposed.
Khedira restored Madrid's lead after 35 minutes when he turned in a low shot by Ronaldo with his back heel, but Madrid, missing usual centre-backs Pepe and Sergio Ramos, were unorganised at the back too and Prieto was on hand again to make it 2-2 just before the break when he pounced on a loose ball. And there was still time at the end of a fascinating first half for Benzema to strike the post.
The second half was a masterclass from Ronaldo, who fought for every ball and whose will to win gave Madrid the lift they needed. In the opening stages of the second period he pressed La Real when they had the ball, and then he won the game with his two goals. The first was a shot from inside the area on 68 minutes after a pass from Benzema and the second, arriving just two minutes later, was a driving free-kick which was too powerful for a hapless Claudio Bravo.
Xabi Prieto then completed his hat-trick to make for a nervous finish for Madrid but their task was made easier after Daniel Estrada was sent off with 11 minutes to go for a second bookable offence.
Ronaldo barely put a foot wrong during the game: he was named captain by Mourinho, but, showing his selfless side, offered the armband to Casillas once he entered the pitch. The goalkeeper let Ronaldo keep the armband on, and after scoring his goals, ran over to embrace his besieged coach. It was a sublime performance from the Portuguese, who was the hero on this eventful evening at the Bernabéu.