Real Madrid continue on their incredible run of form by increasing their unbeaten record to 40 matches, breaking the previous record set by Barcelona.
Real Madrid travelled to Sevilla to take on Jorge Sampaoli’s men in the 2nd leg clash of the Copa del Rey.
First and foremost, this was not a good match from Zinedine Zidane’s men. Coming into the match without pivotal players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric, James Rodriguez, and Isco, it was up to the youngsters and some veterans to provide the result. The starting 11 consisted of a somewhat makeshift lineup, starting with Kiko Casilla in goal. The back four Zidane provided incorporated Danilo, Nacho, Sergio Ramos (C), and Marcelo, while the midfield integrated similar faces with Kroos and Casemiro, and the attacking front was compiled with Lucas Vazquez, Alvaro Morata, Marco Asensio and the relentless Mariano. It was Zidane’s idea to rest the big guns and it was a decision that almost backfired, as in the end Sevilla proved to be a tough task for the Royal Whites.
Sevilla came out very strong to start the game. Sampaoli’s side were relentless on their attack and won back possession as soon as they lost the ball. Pressing consistently, Sevilla maintained possession and caused all sorts of problems for Real Madrid, especially for the defense early on. Roughly 10 minutes into the game, a disastrous attempt at a clearance by Danilo ended up being an own-goal, as the right back tried a diving header that ultimately ended up in the back of Real Madrid’s net. Danilo has been quite poor since his arrival at Real Madrid, and unfortunately for him, his time at the club may be in doubt due to continuous bad performances. The score at this point was 1-0 to Sevilla (1-3 on aggregate), and Real Madrid looked very shaky to say the least. Fortunately for them, the horrible first 45 minutes ended with Los Merengues down 1-0, though still leading the aggregate comfortably.
Coming out from the tunnel, Zidane’s halftime talk looked to do wonders for the players, as Real Madrid came out firing on all cylinders. Finally taking control of the game, Real Madrid looked like men on a mission to level the score line. After a Kiko Casilla clearance off a corner, Marco Asensio provided a piece of magic that is reminiscent to Bale’s goal against Barcelona in the Copa final a few years back. Taking the ball from just outside his own penalty box, Asensio only needed 8 touches to fly down the pitch and score a beautiful solo goal. It should be mentioned that when he gets minutes, Asensio takes advantage and has put in good performances in almost every game he’s played. It is truly wonderful to see a player so young provide so much class on the pitch.
"“I picked the ball up, I felt strong, steamed ahead and when I saw that I was 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper, I was able to finish well” – Marco Asensio"
With the score now leveled, Real Madrid didn’t really gain anything from Asensio’s wonder goal, as they conceded another goal from Sampaoli’s men minutes later. After another in swinging cross, debutant Jovetic tapped home a goal Ramos’ head couldn’t reach and Sevilla were back on top. Continuing to be a problem, Sevilla imposed their will on Real Madrid’s goal by issuing chance after chance. Surprisingly, Sevilla could not capitalize on their chances until the 75th minute, where a poor piece of keeping let Vincente Iborra tap home a goal making the score line 3-1 for Sevilla (3-4 on aggregate) which in turn, set up a grand finish.
After Casemiro won a penalty in the 82nd minute, homecoming man Sergio Ramos stepped up and scored a cheeky Panenka to provide Real Madrid some hope. After Karim Benzema came on late for Alvaro Morata, his inclusion proved to be pivotal as he and Marcelo used beautiful linkup play in added time to level the score and create history. It was the Frenchman, often criticized this season, who was the hero for Zinedine Zidane and the team.
Zinedine Zidane did not care about the unbeaten run, and that showed in his squad list and the starting 11 he put out onto the pitch. If it weren’t for missed chances from Sevilla and brilliant individual moments from Asensio and Benzema, this tie could have been way worse and produce one of the most improbable comebacks in recent history. Instead, Real Madrid did what they seem to do best under Zidane, and that is get results no matter the circumstance. Many people will be calling it luck, but it looks like more of a habit at this point.
Real Madrid are set to face Sevilla for the third time this month on Sunday with a kickoff star time set for 2:45pm EST, as Real Madrid look to strengthen their grasp as league leaders.