Real Madrid celebrated the first anniversary of Zinedine Zidane’s appointment in style, as James Rodriguez netted twice in a 3-0 Copa del Rey dismantling of Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Zidane has enjoyed a wonderful 12 months in charge of the European champions and his impact showed no sign of subsiding on Wednesday, with Sevilla on the end of a battering in what was predicted to be a tough Copa last-16 first leg for injury-ravaged Madrid.
The rested Cristiano Ronaldo along with the injured Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos were just three of those missing, but their absence was not felt as Madrid ran Sevilla ragged right from the beginning – James breaking the deadlock early on with a fine goal which encapsulated the hosts’ quick start.
The match settled down but Zidane’s men remained in complete control and added a second through Raphael Varane, before James’ doubled his tally by converting a dubious penalty.
Madrid appeared to ease off slightly in the second half, though Sevilla looked no more threatening as the home side kept things tight and disciplined at the back.
In the end, Madrid had no difficulty cruising to victory and taking their unbeaten run to 38 matches in all competitions, but Sevilla will not have to wait long for revenge as the two sides go head-to-head in the second leg and in LaLiga over the next 11 days.
Sevilla looked to be in for a gruelling encounter right from the start and Madrid’s intense pressing was crucial to their early goal.
Gabriel Mercado sold Steven N’Zonzi short and Casemiro was on him in a flash, prodding the ball into space for James to pounce before bending a crisp finish into the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.
Sergio Rico came to Sevilla’s rescue just before the half-hour mark, palming Marcelo’s thunderous volley away before Mercado cleared for a corner.
But the set-piece brought Madrid’s second, with Varane heading Toni Kroos’ delivery beyond the helpless Rico.
Sevilla should have pulled one back shortly after, but Joaquin Correa was thwarted by Kiko Casilla when one on one and Vicente Iborra inexplicably sliced the rebound wide of an open goal.
Vitolo was similarly culpable for shooting straight at Casilla when through on goal just before the break and Madrid took full advantage a few minutes later.
Luka Modric appeared to be pushed by James in the area and referee Mateu Lahoz controversially pointed to the spot, with the Colombian coolly dispatching the penalty.
Jorge Sampaoli introduced Pablo Sarabia for Ganso at half-time and the former Madrid youngster was involved almost straight away, feeding Correa into the area only for the Argentinian to shoot just wide of the bottom-left corner.
That was about as far as Sevilla’s fightback went, though, as the hosts starved their visitors of opportunities.
Madrid crafted few chances of their own in the second period, with the LaLiga pacesetters seemingly happy to nullify their opponents.
And Zidane’s tactics worked, as they take a big lead into the return leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 12.
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