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Immediate Reaction: Real Madrid 4 - 1 Sevilla

Real Madrid inch closer to the title.

A Jovetic scare was overpowered by a great second half performance. Real Madrid blitzed Sevilla in the second half to come away with a 4-1 scoreline (Nacho, Ronaldo x2, Kroos; Jovetic). Here’s our quick reaction to the match. Still to come: Player ratings, tactical review, and post-game podcast.

Real Madrid finished another ‘final’ with three points. They did their part. It was weird, it was controversial, it was sad, it was fun, and it was at times helter-kelter defensively — but it was a deserved victory that was inundated with storylines which we’ll talk about beyond this game.

It was a match that was uncomfortable before the fire was mitigated by Zidane’s scheme-change in the second half. To start, Kovacic and Kroos were spread thin, which tends to happen when they are essentially a double-pivot without an arranged midfield around them. Asensio and James are good — really good. Asensio in particular, by my count, had four instances where his hounding led to ball retention and a chance created — one of which led to Real Madrid’s second goal. But he and James both conserve their energy defensively, and tend to misread passing lanes or where they need to be without the ball -- leaving more work for Kovacic and Kroos.

Jovetic, as he has in the past, gave Real Madrid a lot of problems, and was somehow held to just one goal. Keylor Navas (who’s just been insanely good, like pre-injury good, in the past month or so), the post, and bad decision-making from Joaquin Correa were the culprits of keeping him off the scoresheet generally. Jovetic’s lone goal came in the second half after some good movement and passing took advantage of Real Madrid failing to zip up vertically.

Meanwhile, despite those defensive defects, Real Madrid scored two goals before the substitutions sealed the game. Nacho scored a controversial free-kick (which, to be clear, was completely legit, so please get out of here with your ‘Nacho is unethical’ / ‘This goal was not in the spirit of the game’ takes. The aim is to win a trophy, not hold hands with Sampaoli and treat him to tea after the match while watching Barcelona lift the trophy), and Asensio’s motor started an attack which Ronaldo capitalized on.

In the 61st minute, Zidane made a double-change, bringing on Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez for James and Morata. That move had dual implications. 1) The team completely switched into a packed midfield with Ronaldo up top. Sevilla were completely defanged from that moment on, and Real Madrid went on to score two more goals and dominated the match from that point. 2) James left the field slowly, cherishing every last step and applause as he said goodbye to the Bernabeu.

That moment was a bit too real. We all knew someone had to leave this off-season in a cluttered position, and that that someone was probably going to be James; but seeing him walk off like that, in the flesh, after a shaky match which made it clear he had other things on his mind, was just, real.

It should be noted that the final two goals of the game deserve their own bullet point. Ronaldo scored arguably his best goal of the season, and Toni Kroos scored the final goal in classic android fashion.

Barcelona also won their game away to Las Palmas, which occurred simultaneously. Nothing surprising there. Time to focus on Celta now. It’s great that Zidane was able to grab the three points here with Marcelo, Isco, and Benzema getting rest; while lowering the dosage of Casemiro and Modric.

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