Real Madrid’s Sunday match against fourth placed Sevilla marked their final match at the Santiago Bernabéu for the season. Coming into the matchday with a game in hand and tied with Barcelona on 84 points, Madrid had no choice but to go for the win.
So naturally, Zinedine Zidane heavily rotated his starting lineup. Despite starting routine benchwarmers such as Danilo, Mateo Kovačić and James Rodriguez, Real Madrid displayed a strong attacking performance typical of the Spanish club.
The match started off the way most Real Madrid games go. Madrid had the lion’s share of possession in the first few minutes with Sevilla feeding off of their scraps. The occasional mistake by the Real Madrid players was pounced upon by Sevilla and a few counter attacks were attempted, but nothing came to fruition.
Whenever a Sevilla attack failed, Real Madrid responded with deadly efficiency. They gave a masterclass on countering, making the most of every opportunity. To Sevilla it must have felt like every attack was ending with an attempt on their goal.
It wasn’t a surprise that Madrid scored the first goal of the match, but the manner in which they did it left many confused. Marco Asensio was brought down on the edge of the penalty area, creating a tantalizing scenario for free kick-taker Cristiano Ronaldo. But before goalkeeper Sergio Rico could blink, the ball was in the back of the net.
As it turned out, Nacho had capitalized on the Sevilla players’ obliviousness by quickly taking the free kick. The players on his team hadn’t even reacted to his antics. The ball sailed into the open net and Real Madrid took their early lead. Clever reading of the game? Or poor sportsmanship? Regardless of how you saw it, it provided the team with the advantage.
Sevilla had a good response to going down a goal. They ventured forward more often and looked more likely to score. Stevan Jovetic in particular was dangerous in every attack. Although Sevilla were not rewarded with a goal, they did force a few uncomfortable saves from Keylor Navas and even hit the crossbar from an ambitious chip shot.
Then Sevilla encountered the problem with committing so many men forward against a side with the quality of Real Madrid. Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first of the match from a counter after Sevilla lost possession. Asensio got involved once again, bringing the ball forward to form a chance that led to a James shot. Sergio Rico did well to save the initial shot, but Ronaldo was positioned well for the follow-up to score one of his famous tap-ins.
Sevilla stepped up once again to attempt to pull a goal back, but they were not able to create more than a few good chances before half-time. At that point in the match, they had little to lose and would’ve done well to have a goal to show for their hard work.
Shortly into the second half, they got what they wanted. Sevilla engaged in a series of quick, short passes in front of the Real Madrid penalty area to create space for Jovetic to work his magic. He picked the ball up right outside of the box, quickly releasing a shot low into the bottom corner of the goal to halve Madrid’s lead.
What started out as a promising situation for Sevilla turned sour quickly. Real Madrid stepped up their possession and attacks to severely halt Sevilla’s momentum, making it much more difficult to create an equalizer.
Cristiano Ronaldo displayed his class once again with a sensational goal to kill the game off towards the end. Toni Kroos marauded forward on the left and then slipped the ball to Ronaldo, who was waiting in the box surrounded by defenders. He absolutely smashed the ball with his left foot, curling the shot into the net off the bottom of the crossbar at Rico’s near post.
Kroos must not have been satisfied with just an assist because a few minutes later, he had a goal of his own. Nacho surged forward this time, delivering a low cross that was sliced into the far post by Kroos. Sergio Rico was wrong-footed and was forced to watch the ball trickle into the net to seal the three points.
One Hand on the Trophy
With this win, Real Madrid remain firmly in the driving seat in their quest to win La Liga. They still have two tough away matches against Celta de Vigo and Málaga, but thanks to their squad rotation they stand a decent chance of holding out against fierce rivals Barcelona.