BARCELONA, Spain (AP)Karim Benzema scored in the second half to ensure Real Madrid rebounded from its poor performance in the Champions League with its first victory at Sevilla in four years.
Benzema’s 64th-minute header clinched the 1-0 Spanish league victory on Sunday. It came with the pressure building on coach Zinedine Zidane after his team didn’t manage a shot on goal during a 3-0 loss at Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League group opener.
Madrid’s players responded to their embarrassing performance in Paris on Wednesday – when Zidane criticized them for not giving enough effort – by intensely chasing Sevilla players at all times to regain possession.
”We knew how tough it would be. We hadn’t won here in years” said Madrid defender Sergio Ramos. ”We can now relax some after all that has been said this week. When (Zidane) spoke about intensity, he was talking about paying attention to the details, about winning the individual battles, and today we showed we were motivated to get the win.”
Both sides gave fans at El Pizjuan Stadium an attractive contest, featuring non-stop pressure and sleek passing combinations.
Sevilla goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik blocked a shot from a tight angle by Eden Hazard in the 35th after James Rodriguez stole possession from Fernando. Vaclik then saved a one-on-one situation against Dani Carvajal.
Sevilla, coached by former Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui, responded with the combined speed of Lucas Ocampos and Jesus Navas on its right flank. Substitute Oliver Torres added more playmaking in the middle when he came on early in the second half.
The goal came after Madrid gained possession once again which allowed Carvajal to reach the end line and float a cross for Benzema to head over Vaclik, who was caught on his wrong foot.
That was only the second goal Sevilla’s defense had conceded in six matches in all competitions this season.
The loss was Sevilla’s first of the campaign.
Madrid is in second place, behind leader Athletic Bilbao on goal difference. Granada, Real Sociedad, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid are one point behind. Struggling Barcelona, which lost 2-0 at Granada on Saturday, is in eighth place.
Inaki Williams helped to create a goal in each half to keep Bilbao undefeated and lift the Basque club to the top of the standings after a 2-0 win over Alaves.
Williams was fouled from behind, allowing Raul Garcia to score from the penalty spot in the first half. The winger rattled the woodwork shortly before his cross was finally smashed into the net by Iker Muniain in the 72nd to put the result beyond doubt.
PROTESTS AGAINST OWNER
Valencia was held to a 1-1 draw at home by Leganes amid fans’ protests against club owner Peter Lim for his recent decision to fire the team’s popular coach.
Some fans at Mestalla Stadium loudly chanted ”Peter Lim, leave!” before and after kickoff.
Rodrigo Moreno earned a penalty which was converted by Dani Parejo to give Valencia the lead in the 21st. Oscar Rodriguez equalized for Leganes in the 38th.
”I understand that people can have their opinion and can protest,” Rodrigo said about the protests. ”But we have to also have respect for the coach we have because he is the one who is going to help us achieve our goals.”
Real Sociedad striker Willian Jose scored twice in the first half to help earn a 3-1 victory at Espanyol, which is now in the relegation zone.
Getafe beat Mallorca 4-2 at home for its first league win this season.
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