HUESCA, Spain (Reuters) - Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane struck twice as his side came from behind to snatch a 2-1 victory at basement side Huesca in La Liga on Saturday and offer some respite to under-pressure coach Zinedine Zidane.
Huesca took a shock lead against the Spanish champions early in the second half with a vicious strike that went in off the post from Javi Galan and nearly doubled their advantage moments later when Rafa Mir struck the bar.
Real pulled level in the 55th minute when Karim Benzema thumped a free kick off the top of the bar and the ball bounced perfectly for Varane to head home from close range.
The France defender then struck the winner, bundling the ball over the line in the 84th following another free kick.
Zidane had lashed out at reporters in the build-up to the game over speculation about his future in light of disappointing results but the win took his side second in the standings on 43 points, seven behind Atletico Madrid who have two games in hand.
"We were losing early in the second half so we had to show character and we kept believing until the end," said Varane.
"We had to suffer a lot but we got the win."
Real went into the game smarting from last week's shock home defeat by Levante plus a double injury blow as Eden Hazard suffered yet another setback by tearing a thigh muscle and Sergio Ramos had surgery to treat a knee problem.
They were missing seven first team players and had to call upon reserves to fill the bench while throwing on inexperienced 20-year-old midfielder Marvin Park in the second half.
Huesca, who have only won two league games all season, gave Real two early scares as Shinji Okazaki and Mir came close to scoring and they were even more determined in the second half, with Mikel Rico's chip hitting the bar just before Galan struck.
Mir was unlucky not to double their lead when his volley came off the bar and he almost restored Huesca's advantage after Varane's leveller, forcing goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to leap to the top left corner to push his header away.
Benzema then wasted a glorious chance to give Real the lead when the ball fell to him at point-blank range, but the usually clinical forward fired straight at keeper Alvaro Fernandez.
Instead, it was another Frenchman in Varane who got the winner, reacting quickly to turn in Casemiro's header and temporarily ease the pressure on compatriot Zidane.
"Your character really shines through when the going gets tough," added Varane. "We're a strong team and we always fight for each other and we'll keep doing that until the end of the season."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)