Real Madrid slip up at Sevilla as Barcelona trounce Villareal to go top of La Liga
Rafa Benitiez’s men go down 3-2 in Seville, as Barca rout Villareal 3-0
Real Madrid lost the Spanish league lead and their first game of the season as Sevilla mounted a 3-2 comeback on Sunday, letting Barcelona take over top spot in the standings before the title rivals meet next round.
Ciro Immobile scored his first goal for Sevilla before Ever Banega and Fernando Llorente added strikes to complete the rally after Sergio Ramos put Madrid ahead. James Rodriguez scored a consolation goal with the match’s final kick, but otherwise Rafa Benitez’s side had no answers in Seville.
“Sevilla played a great match and we played poorly,” Ramos said. “It’s at grounds like this that leagues are won.”
Hours before, Neymar helped Barcelona take the league lead by continuing his scoring streak by netting a brace – with Luis Suarez scoring another – in a 3-0 win at home over Villarreal.
Despite missing the injured Lionel Messi for five rounds, Barcelona will take a three-point advantage to Madrid for the season’s first “clasico” on November 21.
Benitez said he expected to see a different Madrid against Barcelona.
“A game of the caliber of the ‘clasico’ is different and I hope that the team will respond after this defeat,” Benitez said.
Madrid could not have asked for a better start when Ramos scored an acrobatic effort from a corner kick in the 22nd minute. But the goal cost him and his team dearly as he re-injured his left shoulder on falling after the strike. He tried to continue but was replaced by Raphael Varane in the 31st minute.
The captain’s absence was felt in defence as Sevilla slowly tilted the match in their favor, and then simply overran the visitors in the second half to end their 14-game unbeaten run to start the season.
Immobile shattered Madrid’s apparent control by leveling from a corner after the ball reached him at the far post in the 36th, and the Italian striker wasted another great chance four minutes later.
But Banega put the hosts in front in the 61st when he finished off an electrifying run through the area by Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka after he combined with Immobile.
With Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale oddly subdued, Benitez sent on Rodriguez for his first action in two months.
The midfielder’s last-gasp goal only reduced the final losing margin after Madrid left substitute Llorente unmarked to easily head Sevilla’s third past keeper Kiko Casilla in the 74th.
Sevilla, who also dealt Barcelona their only loss without Messi last month, rose to 10th in the league.
At Camp Nou, fifth-place Villarreal neutralized Barcelona’s superior possession in the first half, but it couldn’t keep up as Barcelona poured forward.
Barcelona needed an hour of insistent attacks until Neymar broke through before Suarez added a penalty in the 70th after Munir El Haddadi was fouled in the area.
Neymar put a fancy finish to the match with an exquisite second goal in the 85th when he used a sublime touch to flip the ball over a defender before spinning and driving it home for his league-leading 11 goal of the season.
“I thought about the move before I did it, and I pulled it off,” Neymar said. “I’m happy with what I am giving the team, but I think I can improve.”
With the league lead and their goals, Neymar and Suarez are giving Barcelona’s fans hope that they won’t need Messi to get a good result at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
The two stars lead Barcelona with 13 goals each this season and have scored 20 of Barcelona’s 23 goals since Messi tore a ligament in his left knee on September 26.
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique left open the possibility of Messi being fit for the big match.
“He is recovering and recovering well,” Luis Enrique said.
In the capital, Antoine Griezmann scored a header three minutes into stoppage time from a ball flicked on by Diego Godin to give Atletico Madrid a 1-0 victory over Sporting Gijon that lifted it into third place.
At four points off Barcelona’s lead and one point behind Madrid, the 2014 champions are positioned to close on the front-runners after the clash in two weeks.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams scored his fifth goal in eight days to help beat Espanyol 2-1.