Real Madrid responded to their humbling Champions League loss at the hands of Paris Saint-Germain by winning 1-0 against Sevilla thanks to Karim Benzema’s second-half header.
Los Blancos had won just two of their first five games in all competitions and the 3-0 defeat in the French capital in midweek had raised further questions about head coach Zinedine Zidane’s long-term future.
However, they got back to winning ways in a drab LaLiga contest in Seville as Benzema nodded home the game’s only goal in the second half.
Madrid, who moved onto 11 points – level with leaders Athletic Bilbao – also kept their first clean sheet of the campaign as Sevilla failed to register a shot on target across the 90 minutes.
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) September 22, 2019
Sevilla came into the weekend top of the table but they struggled to emulate their early-season form in a forgettable first half.
Madrid at least managed to test the opposition’s goalkeeper as Eden Hazard and then Dani Carvajal forced Tomas Vaclik into stops.
Hazard, still searching for his first Madrid goal, looked to squeeze an attempt inside the near post but was stopped by the arm of Vaclik, who then used his right foot to thwart Carvajal after the full-back had broken through down the middle of the pitch.
Neither side took control of the game in the early stages of the second half but Madrid made the breakthrough in the 64th minute through Benzema.
Gareth Bale fed Carvajal on the right and his cross from the byline was nodded in by Benzema after he had peeled off Diego Carlos to find space.
Former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui responded by bringing on ex-Los Blancos striker Javier Hernandez for Sevilla five minutes later but he was unable to find a leveller, with Luuk de Jong heading wide from their only real opening.
Hernandez thought he had scored with three minutes remaining, but he was correctly adjudged offside when turning home a cross, while Bale fired into the side-netting at the other end in stoppage time.
What does it mean? Things looking up in LaLiga for embattled Zidane
There had been plenty of scrutiny on Zidane’s position after the loss to a PSG team missing Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, but this victory lifted Madrid four points clear of Barcelona after five games. Sevilla’s unbeaten start came to an end, though they are only one point behind Madrid and table-toppers Athletic.
Varane the man in Madrid’s defence
Sergio Ramos, back from suspension, was the only change made by Zidane but it was his defensive partner Raphael Varane who proved an unmoveable object for Sevilla. The World Cup winner led his team with nine clearances in total.
For once, James struggles against Sevilla
James Rodriguez came into this game having scored six times in 11 games against Sevilla, but he was unable to add to that tally on a quiet night. He had the worst pass-completion percentage of any of Madrid’s outfield players and made just one key pass before being replaced with 14 minutes remaining.
Zidane’s side host Osasuna on Wednesday before travelling to Atletico for the Madrid derby at the weekend. Sevilla visit Eibar on Thursday and then host Real Sociedad.
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