Real Madrid open six-point gap on Barcelona after win over Sevilla


Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti praised his team’s response to Sevilla’s equaliser after running out 3-1 winners on Saturday night to extend their lead at the top of La Liga to six points.

Croatian midfielder Luka Modric opened the scoring inside the Santiago Bernabeu in the fifth minute before Erik Lamela levelled for the visitors early in the second half. However, Real Madrid wrestled control of the match back with goals from Lucas Vazquez and Fede Valverde in the final stages.

“We lost a bit of confidence when we let in the goal, but luckily, the substitutes gave energy to the team and more confidence,” said Ancelotti. “We scored the second goal with a spectacular counter and a great pass from Vinicius, and from there we were on our way.”

Even though it was raining, the late goals made the end of a great night for Madrid fans.

Karim Benzema, missing from the team with a minor injury, had presented the Ballon d’Or he won on Monday to the fans inside the Bernabeu before kick-off, handed his trophy by former winners Modric and Zinedine Zidane.

Fans brandished gold sheets laid out for them by the club.

Although they were not able to watch the French striker here, with a thigh problem keeping him out, their team maintained their momentum.

It took Real Madrid just five minutes to open the scoring.

Vinicius Junior was the architect, picking the pocket of Gonzalo Montiel, driving forward deep into the area and then sliding a perfect pass across to split the defence and leave Modric with a simple finish on his 450th appearance for the club.

Returning from a sciatica problem, Thibaut Courtois also presented his Yashin Trophy for being the world’s best goalkeeper to fans, which was his only task of note until the second half. He soon had another – picking the ball out of the back of the net.

Lamela finished well after being set-up by Montiel, who stole the ball from Vinicius in a reverse of the opening goal.

Ancelotti responded by putting Eduardo Camavinga in for Aurelien Tchouameni. This helped Madrid get back on track, and Marco Asensio and Vazquez coming on helped even more.

Rodrygo, playing in place of Benzema at false nine, did a trick with a backheel to find Vinicius, who shot into the side net from a tight angle after running past Bono to get the pass.

Sevilla were on the back foot and the next time Vinicius burst through, running on to Asensio’s pass, he earned his second assist of the night, and then Valverde sealed the win in spectacular fashion.

“Vinícius gave two assists, but two assists to basically make a goal,” Ancelotti said. “To me, that can be even better than scoring a goal yourself and I told him that. I told him he should be really happy with what he did today because he should great humility.”

The only worry for Madrid was Uruguayan midfielder Valverde, who has seven goals this season across all competitions, taking a blow to the knee and hobbling away at the end.

“He had a blow to his leg,” said Ancelotti. “We’ll have to see what happens and how he is on Tuesday (for the Champions League). And Karim, I think he will come back next Sunday.”

It was Sevilla’s first defeat since Sampaoli took over, leaving them 14th.

“I think the team made a great effort at a very difficult place to come,” said Sampaoli. “We had to control the game, it could generate a game going back and forth, and Madrid are the best at that.”

Second-placed Barcelona can close Madrid’s gap at the top when they host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday night.