MADRID • After a topsy-turvy campaign and a "tragic" week which saw their hopes of any silverware disappear, Real Madrid were all smiles again at the Bernabeu on Saturday after Zinedine Zidane's return as coach was celebrated with a 2-0 LaLiga victory over Celta Vigo.
The Frenchman brought Real's outcasts in from the cold and they repaid him with an encouraging performance.
Isco, who had not started a single league game under Santiago Solari, gave the Spanish giants the lead shortly after the hour and Gareth Bale got the goal his own committed display deserved to put sorry Celta out of sight.
Bale was teed up by Marcelo, who was also dropped by Solari but recalled, while Keylor Navas pulled off a superb save in the first half, having been brought back in ahead of Thibaut Courtois.
"Nobody can erase what these players have done," Zidane said about the players he recalled. "I will count on everyone."
The victory ended a run of four consecutive home defeats for Real who are now two points behind Atletico Madrid and nine adrift of Barcelona.
That deficit will surely prove too big to close, but Zidane's job was to restore morale in the 10 league games that are left and to find out what, and who, needs changing in the summer.
"My team talk was really simple," Zidane said. "I told them to have fun, to play, to run together and to be united when we don't have the ball. When we have it, let's have fun, and that's what we did."
"Happiness has returned to the dressing room and that's the most important thing," Real goalkeeper Navas told reporters.
"The past is the past, the group is working well. I don't know if we needed a change or not, but the club thought it was necessary.
"Zidane has spoken to each one of us individually and now we need to be professionals and work hard."
Real defender Alvaro Odriozola also spoke of a change in atmosphere with the return of Zidane, who is Real's third coach this season after Julen Lopetegui was sacked in October and Solari last Monday.
"We are all very excited, we have renewed hope after that tragic week," said Odriozola.
"We have to look to the future, end this season with honour and try to win the remaining 10 games. We have to stay focused on competing and not thinking about who is playing or who isn't. Instead, we all need to give 100 per cent."
Elsewhere, Atletico's faint title hopes suffered a setback with a 2-0 defeat at Athletic Bilbao.
Atletico coach Diego Simeone admitted that his side were still feeling the effects of their Champions League last-16 collapse against Juventus, saying: "After the bad performance we gave in Turin, we struggled to get going and we couldn't create chances."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS