MADRID (AP) — Producing one of their best displays of an up-and-down season, Real Madrid scored a convincing 2-0 victory over Sevilla to get back into the Spanish league’s top three.
Casemiro was on target with a superb long-range shot before Luka Modric added a late second goal.
The win moved Madrid into the top three for the first time since September and eased the pressure on coach Santiago Solari.
“We have to try to keep this momentum,” Solari said. “In the next match we have to try to play as well as we did today.”
The attack spluttered again but Casemiro broke the deadlock at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium with a 78th-minute shot, and Modric sealed victory following a counter attack in stoppage time to cap a great performance by the world player of the year.
“We needed a match like this,” Modric said. “We haven’t forgotten how to play. We had been struggling but this is a turning point for us. We have to keep improving.”
Madrid went above Sevilla in the standings and moved within seven points of leader Barcelona, which hosts Leganes yesterday. Solari’s men are five points adrift of second-place Atletico Madrid, which won 3-0 at bottom club Huesca.
Sevilla, winless in four consecutive league matches, dropped three points behind Real Madrid after 20 matches.
“We faced the best Madrid in a while,” Sevilla coach Pablo Machin said. “They made it difficult for us.”
Madrid was coming off a win at Real Betis but had lost 2-0 to Real Sociedad in its last league game at home. The team entered the match against Sevilla having endured one of its worst slumps in more than two decades, losing 10 times in 32 matches in all competitions.
“We will keep fighting in all three competitions,” Solari said, referring to the Spanish league, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. “Nothing is impossible for Real Madrid.”
There were cheers after the final whistle on a cold and rainy afternoon at the Bernabeu, but the team still wasn’t at its best offensively.
Again without some regular starters because of injury, Madrid had trouble capitalising on its chances against Sevilla’s solid defensive system. It dominated possession and looked in control for most of the match, although the visitors threatened on the counter attack.
Young Brazilian Vinicius Junior had two good early chances for Madrid, including a one-on-one. He also had a few decent chances in the second half, but it was midfielder Dani Ceballos who came closest to scoring for Madrid with a booming shot that struck the crossbar in the 67th.
Sevilla’s best opportunity came when Sergio Escudero missed with only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to beat.
Casemiro finally put Madrid in front with a right-footed strike into the top corner and Modric added the second from a breakaway.
Among those who couldn’t play for Madrid because of injury were Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Marco Asensio.
Courtois was back in goal after having been sidelined, while Karim Benzema featured despite a broken finger.
Atletico cruised to victory at Huesca with goals by Lucas Hernandez, Santiago Arias and Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion in a game played amid thick fog at El Alcoraz Stadium.
Atletico were coming off elimination against Girona in the round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
“We played well throughout,” coach Diego Simeone said. “The performance gives us motive to remain optimistic.”
It was the third loss in four matches for Huesca, which has only 11 points.
Celta Vigo squandered a first-half lead to lose 2-1 at home to Valencia.
The result extended Celta’s winless streak to five matches and left the team in 17th place, just outside the relegation zone. They will drop into the bottom three if Rayo Vallecano beat Real Sociedad yesterday.
Still without the injured Iago Aspas, Celta opened the scoring with a header by Nestor Araujo late in the first half, but Ferran Torres equalised with a shot from inside the area midway through the second and Rodrigo netted Valencia’s winner from close range in the 84th.
Valencia hadn’t won in three straight league matches. They are now up to seventh in the standings.