[dropcap]R[/dropcap]afa Benítez’s Real Madrid side suffered its first defeat of the new season at the hands of Sevilla on Sunday, with the capital city side relinquishing their berth on top of the La Liga table.
The hosts have had an inconsistent time of it this term, with participation in the Champions League having an adverse impact on their domestic form.
However, goals from Ciro Immobile, Éver Banega and Fernando Llorente gave the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán side a memorable win and exposed some of Madrid’s frailties.
Here are five observations from the game.
Bale and Ronaldo guilty of selfishness
Having the current Ballon d’Or holder and the world’s most expensive player in the same team is likely to cause a clash of egos and it has proved as much since Gareth Bale joined Cristiano Ronaldo at Madrid.
Against a competitive Sevilla side and with things not going to plan after the hosts equalised, both players were guilty of trying to win the game single-handedly.
As supremely gifted as both are, against top opposition a more holistic approach is necessary and Madrid looked like a disjointed team in their efforts to get back into the game.
Bale in particular looked like a player eager to answer his recent critics through individualism; being more of a team player would be a better option to have his doubters eating their words.
Konoplyanka and Vitolo offer speed in abundance
Sevilla were most dangerous when they hit Madrid on the counter and made the most of their opposition wide players failing to track back.
Summer signing Yevhen Konoplyanka has made an impressive start to life in Spain and was arguably the man of the match here, with the Ukraine international consistently getting the better of Danilo.
The former Dnipro star has trickery and speed in abundance, with his direct approach something that Benítez’s men could not match.
On the other flank, Vitolo was also a constant threat who struck on repeated occasion and cut to the core of the Madrid defence.
Ramos’ presence sorely missed
Before captain Sergio Ramos went off with a shoulder injury, Madrid were in the lead and comfortable in their ascendancy.
The acrobatic nature of his goal was a stunning way to open the scoring, but more impressive was the calm that Ramos brought to the rest of the visiting defence and team.
Raphaël Varane, as talented as he is, does not provide the same level of presence and authority as the club skipper and Madrid were much more vulnerable as a result – showing just how important the World Cup winner is to the historic club.
Trémoulinas takes advantage of space
One of the major routes to getting the dangerous Konoplyanka on the ball was through his wing partner Benoît Trémoulinas, who marauded forward at will from left-back.
The Frenchman consistently found himself in space and showed an excellent range of passing, ease in possession and footballing intelligence in playing a role in Sevilla’s comeback.
Other forthcoming opponents will have watched the game and recognised the full-back as someone that needs to be closed down when facing Sevilla, while also seeing that a progressive left-back against Madrid can be a potent attacking weapon.
Isco an under-rated star
When all of Madrid’s star names are fit and firing, it is likely that the versatile Isco ends up on the sidelines.
However, since moving to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu from Malaga, the gifted midfielder has not looked out of place at one of world football’s biggest clubs.
With Madrid not playing anywhere near their best against Sevilla, Isco looked the most likely to make something happen with his clever positioning between the lines and neat footwork on the ball.
Although other players at Benítez’s disposal may well have loftier reputations and bigger names, the guile and invention offer by Isco should not be overlooked if Madrid are to have a successful season.
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