MADRID: Karim Benzema proudly showed fans at the Santiago Bernabeu his Ballon d’Or award and then sat down as Real Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1 and extended their lead in the Spanish league on Saturday.
Benzema was kicked out of the match when the club said he was suffering from muscle fatigue. It looks like the striker, who won the prestigious individual football award on Monday, is extra careful to avoid the risk of injury which could jeopardize his participation with France in the World Cup in Qatar which starts in less than a month. .
Vinicius Junior has scored twice for Madrid as the Brazilian winger continues to excel with and without Benzema playing alongside him.
Madrid extended their unbeaten streak to 16 games since the start of the season in all competitions and increased their lead at the summit to six points over Barcelona, who face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Luka Modric and former Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, both former Ballon d’Or winners, presented Benzema with his award in a ceremony before kick-off. The Madrid striker hoisted it high to receive applause from the fans, who turned out for the party and the game in the constant rain in the Spanish capital.
Modric then ensured that Madrid didn’t miss Benzema’s goals, scoring from an assist from Vinicius to give Madrid the lead five minutes into the game. Vinicius pounced on a bad pass from Gonzalo Montiel near the Sevilla area, battled back defenders and found Modric all alone at the far post to exploit.
While Vinicius squandered a chance to add a lead in the 44th – when he tried to round goalkeeper Yassine Bounou instead of shooting from close range – Sevilla were toothless with midfielder Isco Alarcón at the before as a “false nine”.
Sevilla had their fair share of possession but had no forwards in the box to feed. In the 45th, Jesus Navas drew the first save from Thibaut Courtois, who was back after missing six games with sciatic pain.
Jorge Sampaoli’s plan, however, started to work in the second half when the most of Sevilla’s midfielders, including Óliver Torres and Ivan Rakitic, and playmakers like Isco took control for half an hour. .
Montiel made up for his mistake by gaining possession and using the outside of his boot to slide a ball through Madrid’s well-positioned defensive line to meet Erik Lamela’s fine run. Lamela also showed his skill by sending a ball around Courtois from a tight angle with the toe of his boot to equalize in the 54th.
Isco then hit the side netting and Montiel set up Lamela to loop a ball just wide in the 60th.
But Carlo Ancelotti sent fresh legs in attack and a counter-attack sparked by substitute Marco Asensio saw Vinícius draw Bounou before pulling away for substitute Luas Vázquez to fire into an empty net in the 79th.
“Today I want to highlight the work of Vinicius,” Ancelotti said. “He gave his teammates two assists to score practically into an empty net. He should be happy. These assists are worth more than scoring goals. He showed great generosity. »
Federico Valverde added a blistering third goal from long range two minutes later to put the result beyond doubt with the midfielder’s seventh goal in all competitions this season. His powerful shot went over Bounou and hit the net just inside the top of the post.
It was Sevilla’s first defeat in four games since Sampaoli replaced the sacked Julen Lopetegui. Sevilla fell to 14th place.
“We played against a rival that makes you pay for even the smallest mistake,” Lamela said. “We had a period where we played well, but it wasn’t enough. We are still adapting to a new coach, adapting to his new ideas, and we need time.”
Real Sociedad squandered a chance to level the points with Barcelona after their eight-game unbeaten streak in all competitions came to an end at Valladolid.
Sergio Leon’s goal in the 16th minute and fierce defending in the pouring rain at the José Zorrilla Stadium gave Valladolid the 1-0 win.
Mallorca fought back 2-1 at Valencia after Edinson Cavani put the hosts ahead with a penalty for his fourth goal in three games.
Vedat Muriqi, who had missed two matches while serving a suspension, scored his fifth goal of the campaign by equalizing from the spot. Former Valencia striker Lee Kang-In completed the comeback in the 83rd.
Rayo Vallecano centre-back Florian Lejeune netted twice to lead their 5-1 rout of Cadiz to 10, with all five after Iza Carcelen was sent off with a direct red late in the first half.