Real Madrid: 3 takeaways from a nail-biting win over Sevilla

Real Madrid, Raphael Varane (Photo by Stanislav Vedmid/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Raphael Varane (Photo by Stanislav Vedmid/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

Real Madrid picked up all three points on the road against Sevilla, winning 1-0 in an ugly match.

All Real Madrid needed to do was pick up a result at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. They didn’t need to make it look pretty. Zinedine Zidane and his players simply needed to find a way to win. And they did just that, prevailing 1-0 after an own goal from the keeper.

Here are three takeaways from Los Blancos’ victory over the team that was just one point behind them in the table coming into this weekend.

Zinedine Zidane swallowed his pride and kept the lead

Zinedine Zidane deserves a lot of credit for doing something we usually don’t see Real Madrid do. He played a low-block against Sevilla, absorbing pressure but trusting his team to defend against the home side. He had Casemiro sit in front of the defense and played everyone back, looking for counters but mostly just focusing on keeping Sevilla at bay.

The Andalusians had more than 60 percent of the possession in this match, but they didn’t have any clear-cut chances. Their best chances were acrobatic attempts or curlers from the edge of the box. By and large, Real did an excellent job of defending, and while we are not used to seeing the team play this way, they had to do it.

Zidane is honest. He realizes this team isn’t good enough. I mean, just watch some of the ways Vinicius Junior lost possession or how anonymous Karim Benzema and Rodrygo Goes were. They cannot win in the usual Madrid way with goals; they must win with discipline and defending to an extreme we did not even see in 2019-2020.

Are you appreciating Raphael Varane enough?

Luka Modric won the “King of the Match”, but these individual awards are usually jocular and worth paying no mind to. The reason I say this is because these awards are rarely given to defenders for their actual defending, because if this award had actual legitimacy, it would have been given to Raphael Varane.

I see Varane getting criticism for things like “ball-watching” or other nebulous complaints meant to downplay his effectiveness. If he is “ball-watching” or blamed for being in the vicinity of an iffy play, it is really because his instincts and covering led him to the right place and that he was the lone defender actually in a position to do something.

Varane has stepped up big-time in Sergio Ramos’ absence due to injury. He has become the leader Real Madrid have needed at the heart of the defense, as he was there to direct play, clean up danger, and ensure Los Blancos held onto a clean sheet for a crucial victory at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

Toni Kroos’ impact is easy to overlook

Another player who is recognized as world-class but maybe doesn’t get enough credit game-to-game, Toni Kroos was equally brilliant for Real Madrid. You could see him offering calm and support to his teammates, finding solutions on the ball and making subtle movements in possession to make sure he could find a free teammate against Sevilla’s organized defense and midfield.

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Kroos had to be at his best on Saturday afternoon at the Sanchez Pizjuan, and he absolutely delivered. He even almost scored a trademark curler in the first half. Kroos made smart fouls, stayed in position, pressed when needed, and was the key to making sure a less-than-100-percent Real Madrid side maintained control against one of the best teams in the league.