Carlo Ancelotti was pleased with Real Madrid's ability to grind out a 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao after acknowledging they were far from their best at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Karim Benzema, who also scored in the 2-1 win over Sevilla at the weekend, grabbed the only goal of the game in the 40th minute with his 12th strike of the LaLiga season.
The France international has now scored 35 goals in 46 games for Madrid across all competitions in 2021, equalling his best goalscoring tally in a single calendar year for Los Blancos (35 goals in 50 games in 2019).
The hosts had to work hard for a fifth consecutive LaLiga win, with the visitors taking 18 shots on Thibaut Courtois' goal.
Indeed, their expected goals against indicator of 2.7 was the highest Madrid have had in a match this season in all competitions.
"It is true that our opponents had more rest than us, and they are very good," Ancelotti told a media conference.
"In the first half, we did well. In the second we failed with more passes than in the first, and we suffered.
"The ability to suffer is a quality of the team. We know how to play football, and we know how to suffer when the football we want to play isn't happening.
"Real Madrid never give up. Our character and commitment is very strong. Sometimes when we can't use our quality, we are able to use other qualities.
"I liked the ending more than the first half – we were missing something then."
2.7 - Against Athletic, Real Madrid had an expected goals against indicator of 2.7, their highest xGA in a match this season in all competitions. Scare. pic.twitter.com/IAs1NswKoq— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 1, 2021
The result moved Madrid seven points clear of Atletico Madrid in second, although Diego Simeone's men have a game in hand.
Los Blancos are next in action on Saturday when they travel to third-placed Real Sociedad, and Ancelotti accepted he might be forced into making changes to his starting XI.
"The team has finished tired, and we will have to analyse it," he added.
"It is normal when you play against a fresher team that it costs you at the end a little. I must assess whether to make changes for the next game. We have three games very close [together], without time to rest.
"I have to think carefully about the decisions, but the streak is very good, and I am very satisfied with everyone: with those who play, those who play for five minutes, and those who do not have a minute.
"The atmosphere in the team is very good; I like it."