Karim Benzema’s sublime second-half header earned a redemptive 1-0 win for Real Madrid at in-form Sevilla and sent them second in La Liga.
A searching inquest had been ongoing into head coach Zinedine Zidane’s mixed return after new depths were plunged in Wednesday’s spineless 3-0 midweek Champions League opener at depleted Paris Saint-Germain. Los Blancos required a response at former boss Julen Lopetegui’s unbeaten hosts – and the grateful France icon received one.
Sunday night’s gritty display gained requisite reward in the 64th minute when France centre-back Raphael Varane won the ball high up the pitch, then Wales forward Gareth Bale and Spain right-back Dani Carvajal played a one-two. This allowed the latter mentioned space to pick out a perfect cross that Benzema dispatched back across goal, in the process going joint top of the La Liga scoring charts with Villarreal’s Gerard.
Sevilla tried to force a response, but the summer sales of France striker Wissam Ben Yedder and Spain midfielder Pablo Sarabia bit in a toothless performance. Their toils up top helped Madrid take full advantage of Barcelona’s 2-0 loss at Granada and Atletico Madrid’s home goalless draw with unfancied Celta Vigo.
Here are the player ratings from Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium:
REAL MADRID (4-2-3-1)
Thibaut Courtois 6: Belgium goalkeeper would have expected to be far busier. Won’t complain about a first clean sheet of season.
Dani Carvajal 8: Feisty performance from Spain right-back. Booked early on and pushed envelope from there. Exceptional cross to pick out Benzema.
Raphael Varane 7: Happy to look across and see Sergio Ramos after the midweek PSG mauling. Won ball expertly for opener. Early block with hand rightly not punished in penalty box.
Sergio Ramos 6: The hometown hero, turned villain, put in an uncharacteristically demure display. But this wasn’t a bad thing, per se.
Ferland Mendy 6: Summer buy from Lyon is working his way into the Madrid system. Negligible attacking impact.
Casemiro 7: A responsible covering tackle in second half showed the Brazil anchor man at his 2016/17 best.
Toni Kroos 6: One of the most culpable in Paris upped his game in Seville.
Gareth Bale 5: Wales forward’s return from suspension was not a glorious one. Did precious little.
James Rodriguez 6: His press on Fernando in first half that led to Hazard chance showed the reworked and reintegrated Colombia playmaker at his best. Couldn’t replicate this moment.
Eden Hazard 6: Magic in those boots remains corked. Spurned one-on-one opportunity to break Madrid drought in first half. But his effort could not be faulted in a ceaseless run-out. Much, much better will follow in time.
Karim Benzema 7: Few touches for ex-France centre forward, but made sure one counted. Earned space adroitly and then technique on second-half header was textbook. That’s five goals in five 2019/20 La Liga run-outs.
Federico Valverde N/A: Uruguay centre midfielder was brought on to stiffen things up.
Lucas Vazquez N/A: Ran down the clock.
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