The international break could not come at a better time for Real Madrid. The 4-0 hammering against Barcelona was a game that needed much introspection, and the break gave the manager the time he needed.
The first game after the hiatus was set against Celta Vigo at Balaidos, a clash most teams fear.
Carlo Ancelotti had both Karim Benzema and Ferland Mendy available on the night. The French duo slotted directly into the lineup, with Lucas Vasquez for Dani Carvajal and Marco Asensio for Rodrygo being the other changes.
The game began with a tempo in the host’s favour. Denis Suarez had the first big chance of the game in the 13th minute, but his powerful strike was saved by Courtois.
In the 18th minute, Real Madrid were awarded a penalty as Nolito rashly took down Militao in the area. Karim Benzema stepped up to take the spot-kick and put it beyond Dituro’s reach.
In the 39th minute, Celta Vigo seemed to have found their equaliser. A towering header from Galhardo struck the post before rolling into the back of the net. However, a sudden VAR decision ruled Aspas as ‘obstructing the play’ and ruled out the goal.
If the first half had not seen enough drama, the second half brought with it more. Seven minutes into the second period, Celta Vigo equalised via Nolito. A well-timed cross from Galan found the forward inside the box and ensured that the hosts were back on level terms.
The 63rd minute saw Los Blancos won their second spot-kick of the game. Murillo brought down the substitute Rodrygo inside the area, giving Karim Benzema the chance to complete his brace. The Frenchman struck the penalty firmly, but a low dive from Dituro denied the La Liga top scorer.
Unbelievable scenes followed as Real Madrid were given a third penalty just minutes later. The decision was controversial as Ferland Mendy went down tamely. Yet, the referee deemed it enough to be penalized. Benzema found the back of the net, giving the visitors a 2-1 lead.
Ancelotti’s side began to defend deep after securing their lead. All players played a defensive game to deny the Galicians a second equaliser. Celta Vigo could not find a way back into the game, and it ended 2-1 in Los Blancos’ favour.
With this win, Real Madrid move 15 points clear of third-placed Barcelona and 12 points ahead of Sevilla.
Full time: Celta Vigo 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid 1-0 Sevilla: Player Ratings
Following Barcelona’s convincing 4-0 win against Getafe yesterday, the onus was on Real Madrid to reinstate the eight-point gap between the sides as they hosted Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu today.
Lucas Vazquez opened the scoring for los blancos after ten minutes, but the goal was controversially disallowed for a foul on Youssef En-Nesyri in the build-up.
Madrid found it difficult to unlock Sevilla’s defence after that, with the first-half ending 0-0 after just one shot on target from both teams combined.
Madrid started the second 45 with more intent, creating some better scoring opportunities, but were left without success until an unbelievable effort from Luka Modric scathed the post and went in.
Sergio Ramos put in a wonderful performance on his return to the Santiago Bernabeu for Sevilla, but it was not enough as Madrid escaped with all three points and an eight-point lead on top of the table.
Andriy Lunin: 8
Was not called into action in the first-half, and was pretty much faultless in possession. But made an incredible save off Romero’s effort in the second half and was extremely proactive collecting crosses, too. Game-changing.
Lucas Vazquez: 7
Did a good job overlapping and was unlucky that his goal was disallowed. Did well to deal with Romero and Ocampos defensively.
Antonio Rudiger: 6.5
Rudiger was lucky that Romero and En-Nesyri did not convert their efforts from close range, as he often left space in behind. Went up to attack with the score at 0-0, too, but came back fruitless.
Was substituted off after 75 minutes after an mostly average display. Again, lucky that he was not punished for the space he left behind.
Ferland Mendy: 7
A few decent moves for Mendy today, but for the most part, his inability to overlap properly gave Vinicius too much to do.
Federico Valverde: 8
By far the most active midfielder today, Valverde was everywhere. Ran the show for Madrid, both in possession and stopping counter attacks before they even started. Missed the easiest chance of the game, though.
Aurelien Tchouameni: 6.5
Did his job as the 6 well, kept the game ticking and kept finding the spare man in midfield. Moved back to the defence eventually, and came away with a clean sheet.
Toni Kroos: 7
With Madrid struggling to break through Sevilla’s defence, Kroos was tasked with a lot of deep progression. Created some tame chances here and there, but failed to find properly find a man through.
Brahim Diaz: 7.5
Kept Kike Salas and Ocampos on their toes, making some tremendous solo runs from deep, but was often left without support. Created a brilliant chance for Valverde, that was scuffed.
Did not take many risks in possesion, but was crucial in Vinicius and Brahim finding space on the wing by offering support.
Vinicius Jr: 7.5
With the Sevilla defence looking very organised, the onus was on Vinicius to create something out of nothing. He attempted a few different things, including flicking the ball over players and attempting shots from distance, but all unsuccessful.
Has to be credited for the effort, though, especially with the rest of the team lacking.
Luka Modric: 8.5
Super-sub Luka Modric coming in clutch for Madrid today with his wonder goal from outside the box. Was also brilliant in possession, increasing the tempo of the game.