Sevilla 2 – 1 Real Madrid – Match Review and Key Takeaways

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15: Team of Real Madrid CF pose for a picture during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15: Team of Real Madrid CF pose for a picture during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid lost 2-1 at the Sánchez Pizjuán, with Sevilla ending Madrid’s unbeaten streak at 40. Alex McVey looks at the match as it happened, and discusses a few key takeaways.

 First Half –

Zidane provided the main talking point ahead of the match as he rolled out a novel 3-5-2 lineup, with Ramos deputizing a three man back line with Nacho and Varane.

The experiment seemed to be working well in the first half, as Madrid used their explosive fullbacks and their midfielders’ dynamic cross-pitch passes to exploit Sevilla out wide.

Modrić posed a huge threat on the right hand side, turning Adil Rami inside out with a dangerous run down the flank before skying it over the bar.

Casemiro commanded the pitch in the first half, stifling Sevilla’s attempts to move through the middle, stripping the ball, and launching counter attacks forward.

Casemiro, along with the tidy work of Madrid’s back three, managed to prevent Sevilla from having many dangerous chances in the first half. Sevilla’s striker Ben Yedder only managed to touch the ball 12 times in the first 30 minutes. Casemiro also made a clutch steal against Vitolo in Madrid’s box to prevent a Seville attack around the 37th minute mark.

It was a relatively quiet night for Ronaldo and Benzema playing as a two-man strike force. They did combine for one close chance as Benzema cut through on the left hand flank, but Ronaldo’s shot slid wide.

Second Half –

The beginning of the second half saw early pressure from Sevilla, who were getting dangerous balls into the box, but Madrid stood strong.

Modric had a reasonable appeal for a penalty as he was slammed between two Sevilla players on the edge of the box, but the referee waived the Croatian’s call.

Madrid’s back line prevented Sevilla getting in behind them by implementing an intelligent offside trap. Marshalled by Ramos, Madrid’s defenders kept pushing forward at just the right moment to leave Sevilla’s men offside.

However, this risky strategy nearly backfired early in the second half as a dangerous counter-attack almost saw Ben Yedder score, but Navas was there with the save.

Sevilla began to pin Madrid back deep into their own half by applying their characteristic press that was surprisingly absent in the first half. Most of the action for Madrid was coming down the right hand side through Modrić and Carvajal.

A clear giveaway to Ronaldo put him in on goal, but he unselfishly tried to find Benzema, only to deliver the ball straight to the feet of a Sevilla defender.

The attacks coming through the right hand side finally paid off for Madrid, as Carvajal was fouled by Sevilla’s keeper while driving into the box. Sevilla protested, but the referee was convinced that Carvajal’s legs were swiped out from under him.

In the ensuing chaos, Cristiano Ronaldo petulantly tossed the ball at the back of a Sevilla player. He is lucky the referee didn’t see this unnecessary action, or he could have been punished with a card.

Ronaldo slotted the penalty away into the bottom left corner, and Madrid looked as if they were cruising to a crucial away victory.

The 74th minute saw Kroos come out for Mateo Kovačić. Kovačić made an instant impact, as his fresh legs and line-breaking dribbles added some fluidity into Madrid’s attack.

However, this added energy didn’t last long, as Sevilla began pinning Madrid back with some impressive attacking play. The tempo had clearly shifted, and Madrid started to look shaky in possession.

In the 84th minute, Marcelo earned a yellow card for an unnecessary late tackle after he realized he was beaten.  That stupid foul proved fatal, as the ensuing free kick was arched in dangerously by Sarabia, only to find the head of Madrid’s own Sergio Ramos, who blasted the ball into the back of Madrid’s net.

The own goal was Ramos’ first ever in league play. Real Madrid fans are used to seeing late Ramos headers, but I don’t think this is what they had in mind.

The equalizing goal gave Sevilla an extra burst of energy, and they began surging forward in search of the go-ahead goal. Following his error, Ramos seemed determined to help Madrid maintain their unbeaten streak, making a smart block after a dangerous Sevilla counter-attack, and picking up the slack from Casemiro who gave the ball away carelessly in Madrid’s box.

In the 91st minute, Sevilla went ahead with the goal that would end Madrid’s unbeaten streak.

The play began with Benzema giving the ball away sloppily, resulting in a shot from a long way out by Jovetic. Navas was caught out with some poor positioning, and although he slapped the ball away, he couldn’t get enough on it, and it rolled into the back of Madrid’s net.

3 Key Takeaways –

 Zidane got some things very right, and some very wrong.

The match appeared to be a tactical masterclass from Zidane, with Madrid overwhelming Sevilla in the midfield and exploiting space out wide. It’s great to know that the 3-5-2 is something Madrid can do when needed.

However, Zidane clearly made a mistake by not using all of his substitutions. While Marcelo’s post-match comments hint at a mental lapse by Zidane’s men towards the end, it’s obvious that Madrid’s players were exhausted.

Additionally, there were a number of balls played forward for Ronaldo that he simply does not have the pace for anymore. It would have been great to see Asensio, Vázquez, or even Mariano on to give Madrid another outlet. This would have helped keep Madrid from getting bogged down in their own half, something that ultimately allowed Sevilla to take control of the game late on.

Ronaldo and Benzema need to do better.

The vast majority of Madrid’s offensive threat came from the fullbacks and Luka Modrić. Notably absent from Madrid’s offensive arsenal was any real threat coming from the middle.

Ronaldo and Benzema tried a number of times to play little one-two give-and-go’s in the center of the park, but they were never sharp enough to pose a major threat. As mentioned above, Ronaldo’s speed is starting to go, which prevents him from running onto through balls with the same pace and intensity.

Madrid was really missing the explosive speed provided by the likes of Lucas Vázquez or Gareth Bale, and thus had to rely on movements through the middle that were easily stifled out or through explosive runs from our fullbacks who were exhausted by the end of the match. There was much to like about Zidane’s system today, but he has to figure out how to get Ronaldo and Benzema more involved when they play up top together.

The Streak is Over

It had to come to an end sometime, and today was the day. Sevilla is an excellent team, and there is no shame in losing to them away from home. Madrid remain one point up on Sevilla, two points up on Barca, and still have a game in hand.

The key in the next few weeks will be to maintain the confidence and belief that they demonstrated throughout the unbeaten run, and prevent things from turning sour. Let’s all take a minute to appreciate the amazingness that is Zidane’s initial tenure at Real Madrid. We’re witnessing something special here. Let’s hope they can keep it up.

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