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Immediate Reaction: Sevilla 2 - 1 Real Madrid

Real Madrid’s unbeaten run comes to an end

Sevilla FC v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid’s unbeaten run comes to an end in dramatic fashion. Here are some notes.

The Setup

Like me, you might have read the line-up when it was announced, then read it again, then read it a third time - just to be sure you read it correctly. It was different, as it always seems to be with Zidane this season. And who can argue? There is always skepticism, an element of risk to these lineups we’ve never seen before, but it’s clear Zidane works on things behind closed doors, and the team is cohesive enough to adapt.

The 3-5-2, in fairness, is not as dramatically different as it looks on paper. Casemiro, Modric, and Kroos still command the middle, while Carvajal and Marcelo act as wing backs. Zidane essentially sacrificed his third attacker for a third central defender to plug any potential leaks.

And it worked - until it didn’t work anymore, around the 85th minute mark.

In theory, Marcelo and Carvajal are both ideal wing-backs in a 3-5-2. They’re two-way players who can take advantage of space, but both have the lungs to help out their backline. Everything about today’s defensive scheme was compact. Sevilla thoroughly out-passed Real Madrid in the final third, but couldn’t break through until late when the team inexplicably looked like a shattered mess.

Offensively, this formation was always going to be laborious. Without a third attacker to bind the attack, a lot of responsibility rested on Modric’s shoulders to create.

Zidane knew this, I’m sure, but he chose his poison. In truth, Real Madrid had enough chances in this match to get a result even with a laboured attack - again, until the world turned upside down in the 85th minute.

How things twisted, then twisted again

Both teams played really well defensively for the majority of this match. But right around the 60th minute of this match, Sevilla started to look visibly unnerved when bringing the ball out of the back. They have a couple giveaways which lead to clear-cut chances. Minutes later, Carvajal was taken down in the box by Sergio Rico which led to Ronaldo breaking the deadlock from the penalty spot.

You would bank, from there, on Real Madrid preserving a result given how well they defended. But in a shocking twist, the entire midfield and defense fell apart. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos - who had defended so so well up until that point - collided in a set-piece before Ramos headed the ball into his own net. After that, the team spiralled.

Jovetic’s introduction created havoc for Sampaoli’s men, and it was eventually his shot which won the game in the 93rd minute - Sevilla’s press snuffed the ball away from Real Madrid deep and Keylor Navas was embarrassingly way off his line.

The natural - and emotional - reaction is to blame Zidane’s experiment for this, I know. But it’s also hard to slam a team that blitzed through 40 games unbeaten, and eventually lost it in one of the toughest stadiums to play in without Gareth Bale, Isco, and James. For now, Real Madrid still lead the league with a game in hand, and, these are the games that allow us our cushion - right? I promise we’ll break this down further tonight and tomorrow in reviews and podcasts.

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