Sevilla 0-1 Real Madrid: Respite for Zinedine Zidane, Julen Lopetegui strikes out and Eden Hazard grows

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Karim Benzema.

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 retort 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 Carvajal 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 talking points from Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium:

REDEMPTION FOR REAL

The signs were ominous for Madrid.

In truth, they needn’t have worried thanks to the best performance of Zidane’s comeback.

The 47-year-old had headed straight to Seville from the French capital after a humbling inflicted by former player Angel Di Maria and in which they’d failed to record a single shot on target for the first time since Opta records began in 2003/04. Further difficulties faced them upon their return to Spain.

Madrid had last won at Sevilla in 2015, lost on 11 of their last 18 La Liga visits to the Sanchez-Pizjuan and conceded in each of their last 17 league matches there.

They also faced an inspired Lopetegui. He was dismissed after just 138 troubled days in charge at Santiago Bernabeu in October 2018, his reign beginning to unravel with a bruising 3-0 loss in the same fixture on September 26.

Added to this was the complete absence of clean sheets, injuries to the likes of Ballon d’Or holder Luka Modric and Spain playmaker Isco plus growing rumours about Jose Mourinho pulling off a managerial comeback of his own.

Even last weekend’s 3-2 victory against Levante contained a superb first hour and strained final half-hour.

A command was exerted from the off at a tinderbox Sanchez-Pizjuan rarely witnessed domestically since 2016/17’s previous title win. Added bite in midfield was symbolised when recalibrated Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez aggressively pressed Fernando in the first half, sparking a move that ultimately led to €100 million winger Hazard from shooting at Czech Republic goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

Patience then prevailed. Varane this time won possession and seconds later Benzema had produced a ninth headed goal in 2019 – more than any other player in Europe’s top-five leagues.

The challenge now for Zidane is re-establishing such dominance as the new norm, rather than welcome oddity.

Problems continue to multiply for Ernesto Valverde at Barca. His El Clasico rival has attained some respite, for a few days at least.

LOPETEGUI STRIKES OUT

Lopetegui, understandably, played down talk of instant revenge pre-match.

Never mind the rigour of this week’s 9,000-kilometre round trip in the Europa League to Azerbaijan’s Qarabag, any internal aspirations to a counterstrike were, truly, hamstrung from the off by a loose attack.

The most-telling statistic from the match was Sevilla’s critical inability to hit the target from nine attempts. Goalless Netherlands striker Luuk de Jong’s limitations were glaring in a second half from which two headers from promising positions went wide. Benzema exhibited no such uncertainty.

Sales of Ben Yedder and Sarabia robbed Lopetegui of 30 La Liga goals from 2018/19. A scan of the 2019/20 standings’ top half shows fifth-placed Sevilla as the joint-second lowest scorers on five goals from six fixtures.

Unless a solution is soon found, and replacement Javier Hernandez had a goal ruled out for offside, expect further points to drain away.

HAZARD’S PICKING UP PACE

There is still no goal for the livewire wide man, yet this was a performance laced with promise.

The thigh injury that brought a premature end to pre-season had denied Hazard of full match fitness, plus invaluable time getting used to Madrid’s mechanism after seven, consummate, years at Chelsea.

These facets were particularly absent during the concussive PSG loss. Hazard registered for Madrid at Sevilla the fifth-most touches (59) and fifth-best pass accuracy (85.3 per cent), joint-most dribbles (two), most fouls (four) and joint-second-most interceptions (two).

Rustiness was apparent when he could not beat Vaclik. He will, surely, not be so forgiving next time he is played clean through – starting with Wednesday’s hosting of 10th-placed Osasuna.

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Sevilla 0-1 Real Madrid: Player ratings as Karim Benzema is head boy and Eden Hazard puts in shift

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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.

SUBSTITUTES

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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Watch as Zinedine Zidane insists everyone needs to "man up" at Real Madrid

Sport360 staff 22/09/2019
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Zinedine Zidane is adamant that Real Madrid are just going through a “difficult time” and insists everyone needs to “man up”.

Los Blancos are going through a rough patch, with several stars out injured and heading into Sunday’s trip to Sevilla on the back of a resounding 3-0 defeat against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Not only has the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium not been a happy hunting ground in the past, but they will also come up against some familiar faces, including former players Javier Hernandez and Sergio Reguilon, as well as former coach Julen Lopetegui.

Lopetegui was sacked last October, with Santiago Solari replacing him before Zidane returned towards the end of the campaign. But he is now under pressure following a poor start, while Sevilla are in dangerous form.


The rumours about him being replaced are unstoppable. However, Zidane said: “I think the club will be with me until the last minute. That’s our strength, to back each other up. And if that’s not the way it is, I’d better get out.”








Asked if he regrets having come back to the Bernabeu, the Frenchman added: “I made the decision to come back here because it was a new project, something new, and that’s it. Now I’m here, at the most difficult time, but I’m going to always try to make it.


“Not only when it’s easy, when we win. Winning is easy for everyone. But at the difficult times is when we have to man up, all together.”



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