On Zinedine Zidane’s 1-year anniversary since being appointed Real Madrid manager, Los Blancos gave him something to be proud about, a dominant and decisive victory against one of La Liga’s hottest teams in Sampaoli’s Sevilla.
The Real Madrid coach praised the squad that discluded stars Crisitano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos, as they were out due to injury and rest purposes. The starting 11 featured a front three of Asensio, Morata, and James, all of which were decisive in the victory. Behind them lined up a familiarly midfield in Kroos, Casemiro and Modric, while the back 4 of Marcelo (C), Nacho, Varane, and Carvajal rounded up the Real Madrid lineup. Zizou provided rotations and his tactical approach is a reason for cheers and not jeers. In recent seasons, Real Madrid would always come back from the holiday break somewhat sluggish, but the mindset Zidane implemented in the players is remarkable. They want to work, they want to impress, and more importantly, they want to fight for the crest on the front and not the name on the back.
Looking fluid from the start, the pressing from the Real Madrid midfield as well as Morata was evident and caused all sorts of problems for Sevilla’s back 4. In one particular occurrence, Casemiro’s decisive tackle in front of the Sevilla box led to the first goal for Los Blancos, as Colombian starlet James Rodriguez recovered the ball and curled a 20 yard strike past Sevilla keeper Sergio Rico. The goal was brilliant from the onset and showcased what Zizou instilled into the players. James, who finally seems motivated, showcased his best performance under Zidane, something both he and the fan base looks forward to continuing.
Very satisfied. We had a complete game in the first half. Scoring early helped as very much on how to play for the rest of the 90-minutes.
The first half continued with the same story as the first 20-or-so minutes, with Real Madrid controlling the tempo, winning back possession as soon as they lose it, and causing frustration for the Sevilla players on all fronts. Not too long after James’ effort, Raphael Varane netted home a header after a perfect delivery from Kroos. This is another area where Zinedine impresses, as time after time we see Real Madrid scoring on set pieces. The result of the goal led to a 2 goal advantage for Real Madrid.
However, a now distraught Sevilla started finding a groove and within their limited chances, caused the Real Madrid defense problems. If it weren’t for Kiko Casilla, who started in place of Keylor Navas, the tie could have very well ended up differently. Stuffing both Vitolo’s and Iborra’s attempts on goal, everything seemed right for Los Blancos to start the new year.
James scored another goal just before halftime as referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz pointed to the penalty spot as he saw Modric get pushed inside the area. Stepping up to the plate, James cooly slotted home the ball and the break ended with a 3-0 score-line that benefited the home side.
While the second set of 45-minutes were definitely less eventful, it was more of training session for Los Merengues as they sought out the match and continued their 38-match unbeaten streak. Asensio made room for Isco, Danilo came on for James for a more defensive approach, and Mariano came on with about 7 minutes remaining to relieve Morata of his duties.
All in all, Real Madrid continued their winning ways and started the New Year with a very important victory. While the tie seems done and dusted, Sevilla are still a very good team and in the return leg, the Los Blancos must not let up. The next leg will be held in Sevilla’s home stadium Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, on January 12th. Once again expect Zizou to make rotations but in the meantime, the squad stays at the Bernabeu for the league fixture Saturday morning in a match against Granada.