Real Madrid have piled more early pressure on Barcelona in La Liga’s developing title race with a 3-1 win over a surprisingly resilient but injury-plagued Sevilla to open up a six-point at the top of the table – the Catalans have chance to respond when they face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

An early goal from Luka Modric was cancelled out by Erik Lamela, before substitute Lucas Vazquez restored Real’s lead late on and Federico Valverde quickly made sure there would be no further comeback with a rocket of a strike for his seventh goal of the season.

Los Blancos were missing Karim Benzema, who was honoured on the pitch with his Ballon d’Or trophy before the match, but attacking vibrancy was in strong supply straightaway.

It was a perfect start on a wet night in the Spanish capital, Vinicius Junior nicking the ball off Sevilla full-back Gonzalo Montiel high up the pitch and quickly driving forward. Crucially, he had the presence of mind to pick out Modric at the far post for an easy tap-in.

Real went close to doubling their lead inside the first 20 minutes from a David Alaba free-kick, but the left-footed effort whistled just wide of the post. Rodrygo also soon threatened when he cut in dangerously from the left – the resultant shot was high and wide, however.

Vinicius almost got in just before half-time when he latched onto Valverde’s flick and took it beyond Sevilla goalkeeper Bono, only for the ball to run long and Montiel recover. That preceded Sevilla’s very first shot of the match in the 45th minute, a comfortable save from Thibaut Courtois.

The equaliser early in the second half came virtually out of nothing. No one in the Real back-line seemed to want responsibility tracking the run of Lamela as Montiel played a through ball, with the clever first-time finish sneaking into the net despite a hand from Courtois.

Real appeared a little rattled after that, with both Isco and Lamela having chances for Sevilla that missed the target – to the relief of those inside the Bernabeu.

Following that brief malaise, the hosts did manage to recoup some attacking momentum and were close to retaking the lead when Vinicius again went round Bono after racing onto a Rodrygo backheel. But he could only hit the side netting from a very narrow angle.

The late winner came only moments after Carlo Ancelotti had made a triple substitution, with Vazquez off the bench to score it. The move was a rapid counter attack after Real had won the ball in their own half, with Valverde and Rodrygo both involved. The pre-assist defence-splitting pass came from another replacement, Marco Asensio, with Vinicius racing through and squaring to Vazquez.

Valverde, who worked hard in this game without things always coming off, eventually continued his marvellous campaign when he unleashed an unstoppable strike across the goal from outside the penalty area to wrap things up in spectacular fashion.

Vinicius Junior was electric from the opening kick-off

Vinicius Junior was electric from the opening kick-off / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

GK: Thibaut Courtois – 5/10 – Back after missing six games through injury. Didn’t have loads to do and will be disappointed he was beaten.

RB: Dani Carvajal – 5/10 – Didn’t cover the run of Lamela for the equaliser.

CB: Eder Militao – 6/10 – Generally pretty solid from the Brazilian.

CB: David Alaba – 5/10 – Too much looking around when Sevilla scored.

LB: Ferland Mendy – 5/10 – Has had better nights than this one.

CM: Luka Modric (c) – 7/10 – Smart movement for the early goal. Classy performance overall, even if the game was won after he left the pitch.

CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – 6/10 – Close to flawless with his passing but had been carrying a yellow card since the first half when subbed off.

CM: Toni Kroos – 6/10 – Moved into the deeper central role after Tchouameni went off and better dictated things from there.

RW: Federico Valverde – 7/10 – Involved in some sharp attacking play, although not everything worked. Pressed well out of possession. Eventually got his reward for hard work with Real’s thunderbolt third.

ST: Rodrygo – 7/10 – Returned to a central role in Benzema’s absence. Linked up well with Vinicius and Valverde.

LW: Vinicius Junior – 8/10 – Started incredibly brightly. Looked a threat even before he created the fifth minute breakthrough. At the heart of all Real’s creativity throughout.

SUB: Eduardo Camavinga (65′ for Tchouameni) – 6/10

SUB: Antonio Rudiger (77′ for Mendy) – 6/10

SUB: Lucas Vazquez (77′ for Carvajal) – 7/10

SUB: Marco Asensio (77′ for Modric) – 7/10

SUB: Nacho (‘ for Alaba) – N/A

Manager: Carlo Ancelotti – 8/10 – Arguably waited too long to change things when Sevilla equalised and Real’s momentum slowed, but then two of his substitutes were involved in the decisive goal. Don Carlo knows best.

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