Ronaldo-less Real Madrid suffer Sevilla defeat
Sevilla 2 – 1 Real Madrid
Ronaldo-less Real Madrid surrendered their 100 per cent record at a rambunctious Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in an enthralling encounter that breathed life back into the La Liga title race.
The fixture was set to be the first test the resolve of Manuel Pelligrini’s freshly-assembled £220 million outfit, as well as the credibility of Sevilla’s title ambitions and the outcome was resounding in its confirmation of the latter.
Sevilla were magnificent. They showed great defiance to stifle the exuberant ability of Real’s frontline and set upon wave after wave of attack with an intensity and enterprise to match any side in the world.
The sea of red and white formed by the 45,000 capacity crowd set the tone for the evenings events, greeting the home side with clamorous applause and song and hounding any passage of Real possession with raucous whistles.
Early Sevilla pressure forced a corner and almost rewarded the fans’ cause with a goal on 4 minutes.
Full-back Abdoulay Konko benefited from atrocious defending with a free header just six yards out, but failed to find the target and headed high and wide.
The home side’s frenetic start did not end there. Two minutes later, Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas was forced from his goal to meet Jesus Navas, who had broken the offside trap, and block his effort with a sprawling tackle.
The ball broke free for Navas to latch on to and hook across goal with the goal gaping, but Raul Albiol was on hand to head it clear and out of danger.
Both sides attacked with vigour but it was the home side that created the best of the chances.
Sevilla focused their attacks down Real’s left flank as Navas began his battle with Marcelo. A battle that, had it taken place inside a ring, would have been stopped by the referee early in the first half.
Luis Fabiano was next to test Casillas as he took a ball on his chest and lashed an effort on the turn that was well held by the Spaniard.
Sevilla’s prolific frontman was offered another opportunity moments later, but snatched at Negredo’s lay-off as his left-footed effort was saved with ease.
Navas again threatened the Real goal on 25 minutes by hitting a half-volley that deflected just wide of post and bar and sent Casillas scrambling desperately across goal.
The stadium erupted in jubilation shortly after the half-hour mark as Sevilla took a deserved lead.
A clever backheel by Perotti set Navarro free to chip the ball into the back post for Navas to win another battle with Marcelo, this time in the air, and rise above the Brazilian to power home a header into the bottom corner past the diving Casillas.
Tempers began to fray after the goal and a confrontation between former Spurs player Zakora and Guti resulted in both players raising their hands. Several players joined the melee and the referee was called into action, booking the two as well as fiery Argentine Perotti.
Sevilla goalkeeper Palop was forced into his first save of the evening on 33 minutes after Xabi Alonso arrived first at a loose ball and struck a low effort from the edge of the area.
The home side had several opportunities to double their lead prior to the break.
Luis Fabiano was guilty of missing with a header wide of the near post from eight yards following yet more good work by Navas that saw the Spaniard steal the ball from Marcelo to chip the ball in on 41 minutes.
The effervescent winger then hit a long-range effort fizzing just wide of the post.
The best of the chances fell to Renato on the stroke of half-time after Perotti drove to the by-line in acres of space to deliver a ball for the 30-year-old to head at goal only for Casillas to deny him from point-blank range.
The 98-cap Spain International was to make a second world-class save only minutes after the restart.
Navas began from where he left off with another marauding run to the by-line before cutting the ball back for Perotti to strike goal-wards at the back post just a yard from goal, only for Casillas to dive low to his right and miraculously palm the ball away with both hands.
The save allowed Real to draw the score level through Pepe on 49 minutes.
The Portuguese defender rose highest to power Guti’s free-kick into the top corner with a bullet-header.
Sevilla didn’t allow the setback to affect their mentality and responded immediately by putting the away side under more pressure.
The frantic pace continued but it took until the hour mark for the game to produce the next effort on goal.
Luis Fabiano showed quick feet to shift and get his shot away on 63 minutes but the Brazil star failed to hit the target.
It didn’t matter as only three minutes later the home side regained their advantage.
More abject Real defending from Sevilla’s short-corner allowed an unmarked Renato to head the ball down and past the helpless Casillas into the bottom corner.
Sevilla refused to sit back and defend their lead and proceeded to wreak further havoc down the right-flank of Real as Marcelo was left for dead again by Navas.
Real’s best chance resulted from a defence-splitting pass played over the top by Alonso into the path of Sergio Ramos. The Spain right-back pulled the ball back into the danger zone but lacked support and the ball was hacked clear.
Navas hadn’t finished with Marcelo and drove past him on 87 minutes to strike a stinging effort from a tight angle that needed to be pushed over by Casillas.
The 23-year-old Spaniard wrapped up a sublime display by beating his man again a minute later and drilling a shot low and wide of the near post.
The action continued in the final seconds with Casillas again on hand to prevent Zakora’s swerving long-range effort finding the net and Ramos came close to scoring a dramatic equalizer with a hammered strike just wide of Palop’s near post as the final whistle blew.
Real’s reliance on Ronaldo this season had been a subject of debate in the Spanish press and Pellegrini’s men looked short of ideas without his directness, the Chilean boss will be hoping that the ankle injury that forced his Portuguese star out was coincidence and not a result of last week’s widely-reported contracted warlock curse.
Sevila’s victory has elevated Barcelona firmly into the driving seat three points clear at the top of La Liga, but has also announced their presence in what is set to be a thrilling three-horse race for the title.
Sevilla: Palop, Konko, Squallaci (Navarro, 24), Drago, Adriano, Jesus Navas, Renato, Zakora, Perotti (Capel, 58), Negredo (Kanoute, 65), Luis Fabiano
Real Madrid: Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Albiol, Marcelo, Diarra (Van der Vaart, 73), Alonso, Guti (Granero, 81), Kaka, Raul, Benzema (Higuain, 53)
Man of the Match: Jesus Navas – scored the opener and will appear in Marcelo’s nightmares for weeks to come.
Sunday’s other La Liga results:
Getafe 2-1 Osasuna
Racing 0-1 Valencia
Sporting 4-1 Mallorca
Valladolid 2-2 Athletic Bilbao
Villarreal 0-0 Espanyol
Xerez 1-1 Malaga