Los Blancos responded to their last week humiliation in the French capital with a much-improved display against Sevilla yesterday, with Karim Benzema earning them a 1-0 win which will for sure raise morale in Madrid.
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Los Merengues turned their heads to La Liga and the clash against a team that started the weekend as league leaders, led by Julen Lopetegui, who had quite a point to prove after Real fired him last season.
Despite the UCL miserable appearance, Zidane chose the same starting line-up, with the addition of captain Sergio Ramos, who had been suspended.
And with the egos of his squad shattered, they responded with the sort of defensively diligent display that it had seemed Galacticos were completely incapable of delivering. In fact, for the first time since August 2016, Real didn’t allow a single shot on target in a league match.
Their win at a tough Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan pitch made Madrid rise to the top of the table, joining 1st place with Athletic Club.
The teams fought hard and, even if there weren’t many opportunities, the game was interesting to watch.
In the 2nd half, the quality dropped as both teams began to look exhausted. Real Madrid, because they don’t seem capable of maintaining their intensity for a full 90-minute match. Sevilla, probably because they came home late from their Europa League clash with Qarabag in Baku.
But, Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal combined for the decisive moment, with the right back scooping a cross into the box for the striker to rise and nod home in the 65th minute.
The Frenchman has, no doubt, saved Real a number of times in 2019 and has been their standout player. This was his fifth goal of the season from five La Liga games, putting him at top of the scoring charts alongside Gerard Moreno. It was also Benzema’s 9th header of 2019 – nobody in Europe’s top five leagues has scored more.
Sevilla nearly struck the equaliser in the final stages, but Chicharito only netted from an offside position.
There are still major worries at Madrid. Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale barely appeared in the offense, failing to get involved and, when they would get the ball, they were wasteful.
Hazard also missed the best opportunity in the first half, coming inside from the left after Benzema set him up, but firing straight at Sevilla’s goalie, Tomas Vaclik.
With Benzema in such great form, a lot of Real’s weaknesses can be covered up. For years he worked to feed Cristiano Ronaldo but now he seems to be the main man and Hazard and Bale will have to wrestle that title from him if they can.