Real Madrid fought back from 2-0 down to beat Sevilla 3-2 as Karim Benzema’s stoppage-time winner took them a step closer to clinching the title.
Sevilla looked to be breathing life back in LaLiga’s title race, but Carlo Ancelotti’s side produced a brutal second-half performance to make a real statement.
Perhaps suffering something of a Champions League hangover, Madrid were sluggish and found themselves trailing to goals from Ivan Rakitic and Erik Lamela, both caused by defensive mishaps.
But the pattern of play was dramatically flipped on its head after the break, with Rodrygo pulling one back and fellow substitute Nacho Fernandez equalising, before king of comebacks Benzema sealed the turnaround.
A promising start from Sevilla brought a well-earned 21st-minute opener, as Rakitic saw his free-kick fly straight through Madrid’s feeble wall and into the net.
Sevilla doubled the lead four minutes later, Lamela tucking into an empty net after Jesus Corona got in behind Eder Militao and squared before Thibaut Courtois could pounce.
Eduardo Camavinga somehow escaped a second booking for what looked a blatant foul from behind on Anthony Martial, who had to be withdrawn due to injury, and the Madrid midfielder was replaced at half-time by Rodrygo, who was decisive almost immediately when he turned in Dani Carvajal’s low cross to reduce the deficit.
Vinicius thought he had restored parity when hammering in with 16 minutes to go, but it was wiped out for an apparent handball – a decision referee Guillermo Cuadra Fernandez stuck with after consulting VAR.
But Madrid were far from finished, as Nacho smashed home from Carvajal’s cutback to subsequently tee up talisman Benzema to fittingly get the winner, showing immense composure before picking his spot after fine work by Rodrygo.
What does it mean? LaLiga title all but Madrid’s after another display of character
Even before this game, Madrid’s 12-point lead at the summit was going to take some overthrowing, but the fact Barcelona have two games in hand on them meant there was still a hint of doubt.
Yet given Madrid will surely only expect to be caused problems by Atletico Madrid and Real Betis during what is a fairly kind run-in, it is difficult to see them dropping enough points for Barca to take advantage.
And in fairness, few would say they are not deserving. While the 4-0 Clasico defeat to Barca was a shocking low, this Madrid side has made a habit of showing an admirable mentality in recent weeks, and this time it has surely put them out of reach.
Rodrygo changes the game
Rodrygo has emerged as a truly excellent option in recent times, not least on Tuesday when he scored against Chelsea, but Sunday’s display was another level altogether.
Benzema, who struck his 25th LaLiga goal (the best tally of his Madrid career) will get the plaudits, but off the right flank Rodrygo made a huge difference to Madrid’s final-third balance after his half-time introduction with a goal and assist for the winner – though there will be many who feel the man he replaced, Camavinga, should have been sent off.
Mir fails to lead effectively
Brought on to lead the line after Martial’s withdrawal, Rafa Mir had very little impact. He made next to no impression on Militao and David Alaba, and on the one occasion he had a clear-cut opening, he inexplicably headed over from close range.