VALLADOLID, Spain Jan 26 (Reuters) - Real Madrid defender Nacho was the unlikely hero as they snatched a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid on Sunday to move three points clear at the top of La Liga.
The Spaniard was handed only his fourth league start of the season because usual right back Dani Carvajal was suspended but he proved the difference in a tight encounter by heading home a Toni Kroos cross in the 78th minute.
The defender raced straight over to the visiting dugout to embrace coach Zinedine Zidane after scoring his first league goal in over two years as Real finally broke the deadlock after struggling to break down the hosts' deep-lying defence.
Real midfielder Casemiro thought he had given Zidane's side an early lead when he headed home a free kick from Kroos but the goal was ruled out for offside after a VAR review.
Valladolid's Sergi Guardiola meanwhile netted late in the game but that was also ruled offside and Real clung on to earn a vital victory which saw them take full advantage of champions Barcelona losing 2-0 at Valencia on Saturday.
Real, who have not won the title since 2017, lead the standings on 46 points after 21 games while Barca are second on 43 and Sevilla third with 38. (Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)