Real Madrid put their Paris-Saint Germain nightmare behind them with a decisive 1-0 win over Sevilla at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday night.
In what was a relatively cagey, hard-fought encounter against former La Liga league-leaders, Zinadine Zidane’s side outwitted former manager Julen Lopetegui’s hosts thanks to Karim Benzema’s 64th-minute winner.
Story of the Game
Los Blancos began the game on the front foot, attacking in numbers and almost getting an early goal in the 6th minute when Eden Hazard’s freekick was flicked over the goal by Benzema.
Sevilla were clearly left frustrated by Real Madrid’s deep defensive line and manager Lopetegui was booked before the half-hour mark because of constant complaining.
They finally created one in the 32nd minute when Joan Jordan’s corner met Luuk De Jong’s header, but it went wide.
Hazard had a golden opportunity to get his first goal for Los Blancos in the 34th after James Rodriguez had robbed Fernando off possession and allowed Benzema to play in the Belgian, but his powerful attempt was saved well by Tomas Vacilik.
Real were reinvigorated by it, as James threaded another clever pass to send Dani Carvajal through on goal two minutes later, but his shot forced another superb save from Vacilik.
The second half started in a similarly cagey manner, but Real found the breakthrough after the hour mark.
In the 64th minute, the ball was won inside Sevilla’s half, with Gareth Bale playing Carvajal through the right.
The right-back flung in a delightful cross to Benzema, who made no mistake in powerfully heading it to give his side the lead.
Lucas Ocampos got the better out of Ferland Mendy on multiple occasions afterwards, swinging in menacing crosses which couldn’t be met by anyone inside the box.
Sevilla did get the ball into the back of the net through substitute Javier Hernandez’s close finish in the 87th minute, but he was offside so that was ruled out.
Los Blancos had the perfect opportunity to wrap up the three points in the 93rd minute when Benzema zoomed forward in a counter-attack before playing in Bale in the middle, but his shot only hit the side-netting.
Sevilla huffed and puffed for a last-minute equalizer, but Madrid took their three points to move to second in the La Liga table.
Takeaways from the game
Benzema-Carvajal partnership becoming Real’s golden link
Another day, another Benzema goal to win Real Madrid a game in La Liga. This has been a familiar sight ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left the Santiago Bernabeu, but this win was especially crucial to give Zidane some breathing space.
The Frenchman was vigilant as ever in the final third, having some headers scrape wide in the first half.
However, his nearly intuitive connection with Carvajal resulted in the impressive winner. These two linked in Benzema’s goal against Real Valladolid last season as well, as the Frenchman seems to know exactly when to attack the Spaniard’s crosses.
Sevilla’s lacking a top-quality striker could haunt them
It’s not like Sevilla took the defensive stance on dealing with Real Madrid’s threat, but on quite the opposite note, they took the fight to Los Blancos.
They drove forward in numbers to try and cause Thibaut Courtois big problems, but they badly lacked that lethal edge to finish off moves. De Jong barely got a touch of the ball and Hernandez couldn’t position himself to score legal goals either.
Despite new-signing Ocampos flinging in cross after cross, there was nobody to meet them. Unless his current strikers find a bright ray of consistency soon to start finishing off the rare chances they get, Los Rojiblancos could be left in an awkward position soon after.
Gareth Bale a reinvigorated figure under Zidane
It seemed like the Welshman was in a war with his manager, but matched his compatriots impressive work-rate to see this game through.
Not only did he create chances with his wicked crosses and impressive vision, but Bale also put in a ton of defensive contribution.
Indeed, he tracked Sergio Reguilon’s movement throughout, making important defensive contributions throughout the game.
Finishing off that chance in the dying moments would’ve been a cherry on top, but despite not getting a goal contribution, Bale’s spirited performance must’ve won over Zidane’s trust.
Karim Benzema once again turned out as match-winner for Real Madrid, rising up to the occasion to flick in an emphatic header and get all three points for his side.
The Frenchman looks hungry as ever, with his unpredictable movement, bullying presence giving Sevilla’s defenders quite the nightmare tonight.
Raphael Varane also proved his class with a brilliant defensive showcase today, countering everything Sevilla threw at him on the day. He kept both De Jong and Chicharito quiet while making 9 clearances along with winning 4 aerial duels.
The Frenchman inspired his team-mates with his resilient defending, while also earning Los Blancos their first clean-sheet this season.