MADRID • At one point of the summer, both Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez looked certain to be shunted out of Real Madrid's first team. But, on Saturday, both players began their journey of working their way back into manager Zinedine Zidane's plans when they started together for the first time in over two years.
It was not enough to earn the Spanish giants a second win in La Liga, however, after they were denied victory by a late equaliser from Real Valladolid.
Striker Karim Benzema looked to have won it when he found the bottom corner of the goal in the 82nd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Sergi Guardiola levelled in the 88th as Valladolid snatched a 1-1 draw.
"It leaves a bad taste in the mouth because we scored, we did the hardest part," said Zidane.
"After going ahead, we should have been more pragmatic and had more conviction to do what was required."
With new signings Eden Hazard and Ferland Mendy both injured, Luka Jovic and Eder Militao on the bench and Rodrygo gaining experience in the B team, there was little to show for Madrid's €300 million (S$463.5 million) summer shopping.
This left room for James to start his first match for Real since April 2017, alongside Bale, whose reintegration continues after his impressive display the previous weekend against Celta Vigo.
Both were dynamic, the team's chief creators, and Zidane said afterwards he took the Colombian playmaker off in the second half only because he was feeling some discomfort.
A fresh start applied to a clean slate for Bale too. He sent the kind of shot over the bar that would have brought whistles from the fans in May but instead now drew applause.
The Welshman looked more likely to score than anyone else, falling just short of Isco's cross and then stabbing James' cutback wide.