Casemiro’s stunning long-range strike and a late goal from Luka Modric earned Real Madrid a 2-0 win over Sevilla on Saturday, and a much-needed boost to their flailing title challenge in La Liga.
Madrid began the day 10 points adrift of leaders Barcelona, a gap that will be restored if the Catalans defeat Leganes on Sunday, but this victory should inject a timely shot of confidence.
Casemiro’s brilliant strike in the 78th minute and Modric’s injury-time finish settled a cagey contest of third against fourth, but Madrid were dominant in the second half and deserved more than a draw.
It means they jump above Sevilla, whom they were level on points with at kickoff, and register their most impressive result in weeks, following a run of only two wins from five matches.
Sevilla had gone top of La Liga in November when Barcelona were also stuttering, but doubts remain about their sturdiness under pressure.
In their last 28 visits to the Santiago Bernabeu and Camp Nou, they have now lost 27 and drawn one.
Isco again started on the bench, along with the struggling Marcelo, while Gareth Bale was absent as he continues to recover from a calf strain.
Vinicius Junior was Madrid’s brightest spark in the first half and could have scored early after Modric robbed Ever Banega in midfield, but the teenager’s shot was saved easily by Tomas Vaclik.
Sevilla grew in confidence though, and had the best chance before the interval as one pass sent Wissam Ben Yedder racing clear on the counter-attack.
Madrid’s defenders sprawled to track the runners, but Sergio Escudero arrived late on the left and only had Thibaut Courtois to beat, and drilled into the side-netting.
Modric finished the half with a bandage around his head after a collision with Franco Vazquez.
Madrid were much improved in the second half, as Vinicius’ shot was blocked, Modric curled over and Dani Carvajal weaved through.
Dani Ceballos’ bending effort even rattled the crossbar, with Vaclik tapping it afterwards in gratitude.
Isco came on with 14 minutes left and shortly after, Madrid finally found the breakthrough.
Casemiro picked the ball up 25 yards out, looked out and sent it sizzling towards the left-hand corner. Vaclik dived, but a weak right hand could only help it on its way.
Sevilla, pegged back for so long, never looked like switching the momentum, and Modric wrapped up the win in injury time.
Daniel Carrico was at fault, caught in possession by the Croatian, who finished like a striker before wheeling away, roaring to the home fans in relief.AFP