Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla
Real Madrid have reclaimed sole possession of first place in the La Liga standings after a big 2-1 win over top-four challengers Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu.
A surprising brace from Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro clinched victory for the hosts, who have extended their impressive unbeaten run in the league to 11 matches.
Sevilla were always going to be a test for Real manager Zinedine Zidane, but the odds still favoured Real at home despite the absence of some of their top attackers.
And they proved that they are more than capable of getting a result against one of their top challengers even at less than full strength.
Now, it’s Barcelona’s turn to respond to Real in new manager Quique Setien’s debut.
Highlights of the game
Real were without the services of their three first-choice forwards in Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard, and Gareth Bale during their Spanish Supercup triumph in Saudi Arabia. And the big La Liga 2020 news was that none of them started against Sevilla, with only Benzema present on the bench.
In their place, young Luka Jovic led the line with Lucas Vazquez and Rodrygo in support on the wing. Meanwhile, Eder Militao started for injured captain Sergio Ramos and Toni Kroos came in for the suspended Fede Valverde.
The makeshift Real attack struggled to create many clear-cut scoring chances during the first half. Speculative long-range shots by Kroos, Marcelo, and Casemiro were their most notable opportunities on goal.
On the other hand, Sevilla had the ball in Real’s net just before the half-hour mark as Luuk de Jong headed home from a corner. However, the goal was ruled out by VAR due to an apparent foul by Nemanja Gudelj.
It took until the 56th minute for Real’s first big goal-scoring opportunity to arrive, and Casemiro took it beautifully. The Brazilian, who is known more for his defensive prowess than his ability in attack, got on the end of a gorgeous back-heel from Jovic and ever so coolly chipped the ball over the on-rushing Sevilla keeper Tomas Vaclik to put the hosts in front.
Real almost doubled their lead on 62 minutes. Vinicius Jr. went on a dazzling run as he cut in from the left wing, but his attempt to curl the ball into the corner did not quite come off.
And just a couple of minutes after that, Sevilla got the ball in the net for a second time, but this time it counted. de Jong picked up the ball near the edge of the box surrounded by Real defenders, but he managed to find some space and set himself up for a sensational left-footed strike, which curled past a diving Thibaut Courtois.
However, it took just five short minutes for Real to reclaim their lead. Some lax Sevilla defending allowed Casemiro to go unmarked right at the edge of the six-yard box. As a result, the Brazilian got up unchallenged and headed Lucas’ cross right into the bottom corner.
Not content with his brace, Casemiro went in search of a hat-trick. He very nearly got it when he intercepted a ball at the edge of the Sevilla penalty box, but he didn’t get a good connection with his attempted volley.
Speaking of volleys, Luka Modric connected sweetly with his, but it lacked the accuracy as it skied high and wide.
In the end, though, Real didn’t need a third goal as they were able to hold onto their slim advantage to claim all three points.
The final statistics were what you would expect from what was a fairly close game. Real just barely edged out the possession battle, 52 per cent to 48. They also had more shots (13-8), although they only had one more shot on target than the visitors (4-3).
Real’s unusual front three of Jovic, Rodrygo, and Lucas was unable to generate shots, so midfielders Casemiro and Toni Kroos stepped up to the plate. Both finished with four shots, which led the team, and two on target.
This was the first time in Casemiro’s career where he’s scored more than one goal in a game.
Real Madrid have a relatively easy assignment up next as they pay a visit to struggling Real Valladolid. The Albivioletas are currently down in 15th spot in the La Liga table and have not won in their last eight league matches (three defeats, five draws).
As for Sevilla, they will go back home next week to face Granada. The Rojiblancos will be looking to improve upon their recent home record; they’ve won just one of their last four at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan as they drew against Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao and lost to Villarreal.
VISIT OUR BLOG TO GET YOUR FIX FOR ALL OF THE MOST CURRENT FOOTBALL NEWS STORIES & FEATURES