Real Madrid scored twice in the final 11 minutes to secure a 3-1 LaLiga win over Sevilla on Saturday, after the Andalusian side had frustrated their hosts for much of the evening. A delightful goal from Erik Lamela shortly after half-time cancelled out Luka Modric's opener, only for Lucas Vazquez and Federico Valverde to strike twice late on to secure all three points for the defending champions.
Sevilla remain mired in the bottom half of the table on 10 points from 11 games, while Madrid extend their lead out front to six points over second-place Barcelona, who have a game in hand and host Athletic Club on Sunday.
1. Madrid dig deep to increase lead at the top
This game started off looking like it might be a walk in the park for Real Madrid and briefly turned into something much more complicated before a late rally -- inspired by Carlo Ancelotti's decisive second-half substitutions -- saw them take all three points.
Modric's fifth-minute goal put Madrid in control and for the rest of the first half, Sevilla never really looked like finding a way back into the match.
That changed with Lamela's well-taken equaliser in the 54th minute. For a spell, as Sevilla's confidence rose, the visitors looked the more dangerous team.
It was then that Ancelotti turned to his bench. Eduardo Camavinga was introduced first, followed by Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Antonio Rudiger. Notably, none of them are forwards, but they provided Madrid with the energy and directness that they needed to tear a tiring Sevilla apart on the counterattack.
The second goal was sensational, as Madrid won the ball in the their own half, Asensio played a pinpoint through ball and Vincius Junior selflessly laid off for Vazquez to finish in the 79th minute. Then just two minutes later, a now-trademark Valverde rocket from distance secured the win.
Madrid are facing a punishing schedule in October, with ten games in a month, but they keep finding ways to win and remain unbeaten this season. The pressure is now back on Barcelona to keep pace with them on Sunday.
2. Modric steps in to lead in Benzema's absence
Karim Benzema didn't feature here -- he was at the Bernabeu to present his newly won Ballon d'Or to the crowd, but had been ruled out earlier in the day with muscular fatigue -- but another Ballon d'Or winner, Modric, was on hand to open the scoring and set the team on the way to a win.
This was Modric's 450th game for the club, but at 37 he still plays with the same relentless energy, drive and enthusiasm of a much younger player. The No. 10 played high up the pitch -- with Aurelien Tchouameni and Toni Kroos sitting much deeper -- pushing up in support of Rodrygo at centre-forward.
It wasn't just his goal, though. Modric went close twice more in the first half, shooting wide from outside the box before having another effort blocked.
After the break, when Madrid came under pressure, he looked for the ball constantly, giving everything he had before being withdrawn as part of the string of substitutions that sparked that late, winning rally. It's performances like this that demonstrate just how hard it is for Ancelotti to leave Modric out of the team, even when giving him a rest might not be a bad idea.
3. Isco quiet on Bernabeu return
This was a big night for Isco, back as a Sevilla player for the first time at a stadium where he spent nine successful years -- winning five Champions Leagues and three league titles -- before leaving when his contract expired last summer.
His last years at the Bernabeu were hugely underwhelming -- he started just three league games last season, making 11 substitute appearances -- and this was a chance to show that, at 30, he still has something to offer at the highest level. Instead, it was a frustrating evening.
Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli picking him as a false nine doesn't say much about his confidence in alternatives Kasper Dolberg and Youssef En-Nesyri, but it was an understandable decision given the type of under-pressure game an away team can expect at the Bernabeu. There were flashes and moments of quality -- Isco had 46 touches, completed 35 out of 38 passes and had just one shot -- but nothing consistent, or decisive. It was no surprise when, at 1-1, he was withdrawn on 76 minutes.
Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois 6; Dani Carvajal 6, Eder Militao 7, David Alaba 6, Ferland Mendy 6; Aurelien Tchouameni 6, Toni Kroos 7, Luka Modric 8; Fede Valverde 8, Vinicius Junior 8, Rodrygo 8
Subs: Eduardo Camavinga 6, Marco Asensio 8, Lucas Vazquez 7, Antonio Rudiger 6, Nacho 6
Sevilla: Bono 5; Gonzalo Montiel 7, Nemanja Gudelj 5, Marcao 6, Alex Telles 6; Ivan Rakitic 5, Joan Jordan 5, Oliver Torres 7; Jesus Navas 7, Isco 6, Erik Lamela 7
Subs: Jose Carmona 6, Papu Gomez 6, Rafa Mir 6, Thomas Delaney 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Federico Valverde, Real Madrid. Another game, another goal. The midfielder keeps rewriting the xG rulebook with his shooting from outside the box.
WORST: Nemanja Gudelj, Sevilla. Looked unconvincing in a Sevilla defence that was opened up far too easily.
Highlights and notable moments
Modric and Zinedine Zidane were all smiles as they presented Karim Benzema with his Ballon d'Or in front of the Bernabeu faithful.
After the match: What the managers, players said
Courtois on Valverde's shooting: "In training I suffer a lot! This year we all told him to shoot more, because he's good at it. If it goes to one side of you it's impossible to stop, he has an incredible shot."
Ancelotti: "The [substitutions] gave a lot to the team. The players did well, but the resources we have, when players come on from the bench who suffer from not playing and they make a difference, that means we have a healthy squad. It's a moment of the season where we have to hang on. The demands of these games are great, physically and mentally, you can't stop, we need to keep going, keep suffering."
Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
- Real Madrid have now won 22, drawn two and lost none in games in which Modric scores a goal.
- Los Blancos also extended their unbeaten run in LaLiga when leading at half-time to 55 games.
Real Madrid: Madrid travel to Germany on Tuesday for a Champions League group-stage game at RB Leipzig, before returning to LaLiga action on Sunday when newly promoted Girona pay a visit to the Bernabeu.
Sevilla: The Andalusians, too, will be in action in the Champions League on Tuesday, as they host FC Copenhagen, and will remain in Seville for Rayo Vallecano's trip to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in league play next Saturday.