Real Madrid: Diego Lopez; Arbeloa, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Illarramendi, Khedira; Ronaldo, Isco, Bale; Benzema.
Sevilla: Beto; Figueiras, Pareja, Carrico, Navarro; Rakitic, M'Bia; Alberto Moreno, Jairo; Vitolo; Bacca.
The First Half - Suicidal Sevilla
It's been one year since Sevilla won an away game. On the strength of the first half hour of this performance, that is not surprising. Coach Unai Emery, whose Valencia used to lose horribly to Madrid in twice-annual slaughters while he was coach at that club, continued his laudable (if you're a purist) habit of simply ignoring the reality of his opposition - or their tactics. After spending, one suspects, the moments before the game listening to Frank Sinatra crooning the lyrics to My Way** he sent his players out with a defensive line so high it looked to have come straight out of Carlo Ancelotti's most unlikely dreams. One leaves aside the happiness Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Marcelo must have felt as the game settled down after the opening exchanges - because all of them thrive in space and all of them played brilliantly within it.
Of course, the first half hour of the initial slaughter (Madrid scored three times in fairly quick succession) was only complete because, in addition to the guile and class of Real Madrid's individual players, the opposition helpfully self-destructed in more ways than just tactically. While Sevilla were admittedly helpless against a soft-shoed Karim Benzema (who tricked his way through their defence to set up Gareth Bale's opening goal), the second was an own-goal off Bale's free kick and the third was a ridiculous penalty, conceded (and scored by a typically brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo) just when their team needed to calm down and regroup.
A deceptive performance, perhaps, from both teams. Initially a little too easy for Real Madrid, perhaps. Tactically naive from both sides, definitely. Because Sevilla were to snatch two goals before the whistle blew for half-time in inside two minutes after complacency set in for Real Madrid's defence. The first off their own penalty through Ivan Rakitic in the 38th minute (after Figueiras went down under the gentlest of challenges from Marcelo) and the second on the break through Carlos Bacca on the break after comical defending in and around Madrid's penalty area.
The Second Half - Insanity, Pure & Simple
Initially, the crowd would have looked down at their pitch and noticed all the action taking place at the same end. Temporarily, Sevilla and Real Madrid seemed to have changed places - with Sevilla clearly inspired by the end to their first half.
But in the 53rd minute Benzema, to that point Madrid's outstanding and most inventive attacker, got the goal he more than deserved off Gareth Bale's pass on the break; and Ronaldo put another away on the hour mark.
At 5-2 the game once more seemed to have been settled, but Sevilla weren't done and nor was the surreal quality to this match. They scored again (to make it 5-3) off Ivan Rakitic - a gorgeous lob of a goal that Lopez couldn't possibly have stopped. And when Sevilla were awarded a penalty in the 72nd minute there wasn't anything Lopez could have done either - Rakitic skied it over the bar.
Sevilla completed this most ridiculous of performances by having Stephane M'Bia sent off in the 78th minute and conceding once more to both Karim Benzema (80th minute) and Cristiano Ronaldo in the 71st.
Three separate players could have ended this match with hat-tricks - Karim Benzema, Ivan Rakitic and Gareth Bale (who is unlucky in that Cristiano Ronaldo wasn't giving him his penalty!). One player did get a hat-trick - and it was Cristiano Ronaldo, subject of a tribute from the fans after the Blatter-bother of the past week.
Xabi Alonso came on for Asier Illarramendi in the 68th minute. Welcome back, Xabi.
Gareth Bale dived in the 66th minute - quite unnecessarily. He had been playing brilliantly and didn't need to embellish his performance with a head-first leap into the fine, emerald green of Real Madrid's gorgeous pitch. Yes, Figuerias dived too, earlier - but fans of this team expect better from a man in a white jersey. So this writer would encourage him to cut that out right away.
Diego Lopez made a number of very good saves, most particularly in the 68th minute off Kevin Gameiro.
Karim Benzema provided an object lesson in why a coach has to stick by his striker, occasionally, through the rough-patches. The player was blindingly brilliant in this game. Easily his best performance in over a year in a white jersey. He ran over to thank his chief champion at the club - assistant coach Zinedine Zidane - after scoring.
*I did it my way/Regrets, I've had a few/But then again, too few to mention...