Karim Benzema’s opportunistic, second-half headed strike was all Real Madrid needed to banish the ghost of their midweek Champions League thrashing and hand Sevilla their first defeat of the La Liga season.
Real Madrid edged a closely fought encounter and kept a clean sheet against Sevilla for the first time in 17 years at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
Sevilla, having earned 10 points from their first four games to equal their best-ever start to a La Liga campaign, sensed a massive opportunity to go top of the league with victory against a fragile Real Madrid side still reeling from a disappointing midweek defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.
But Los Blancos, still undefeated domestically though, knew they too could jump from seventh to first should they win by a big enough margin.
Real Madrid XI and Bench pic.twitter.com/WwkIITYU1e
— Real Madrid Info (@RMadridInfo) September 22, 2019
Real Madrid started ever so cautiously, conscious of the fact that they had not got the best of records at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, losing 11 of their eighteen visits in the 21st Century – more than any other away ground since the start of January 2001.
In a half that saw few chances, Madrid came closest to taking the lead – first through Hazard after 35 minutes and again through James four minutes later, but Vaclik in goal for the hosts was alert on both occasions and wasn’t seriously under threat.
It was little surprise then that the first half ended in a drab draw with both sides failing to seize the initiative.
The second half started the way the first ended with no real push by both sides but just after the hour mark, Real finally sprang alive.
Madrid kept the pressure up to work the ball wide to Bale, who smartly slipped in Carvajal. The Spanish fullback then stuck the ball up with an excellent cross to Benzema at the far post – and the Frenchman made no mistake with his free header. One-nil to Real Madrid.
From then onwards, it was about keeping out Sevilla, a team that had not failed to score in each of their last 17 home league games against Madrid – a terrific goalscoring run dating back to March 2002.
There was still time for late drama though when Sevilla thought they’d equalised. Hernandez got the ball in the back of the net with a deft touch to flick Banega’s cross past Courtois. The linesman had however raised the flag for offside.
A delighted Zidane heaved a sigh of relief at the blast of full time whistle with all talks of crises in the Real camp likely to be relegated for another week, at least.