SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) -Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema struck a last-gasp winner as the visitors recovered from two goals down to beat title rivals Sevilla 3-2 in a thrilling LaLiga clash on Sunday that took Carlo Ancelotti’s side a step closer to winning the title.
The victory means Real now have a 15-point lead at the top over closest rivals Barcelona, who have two games in hand, Sevilla in third and fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, who earlier beat Espanyol 2-1, with six rounds of matches remaining.
Benzema fired home two minutes into added time after Rodrygo and Nacho Fernandez had pulled Real level to cancel out Sevilla’s 2-0 halftime lead through goals from Ivan Rakitic and Erik Lamela at a packed Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.
“Everyone is waiting for Real Madrid to stumble, but Real Madrid don’t stumble because we have heart and character. LaLiga is not finished, but we have taken a big step,” said Ancelotti.
It was a tale of two halves as Sevilla dominated the first but disappeared after the break in a match that was marked by several controversial decisions by referee Guillermo Cuadra.
He did not give a penalty for what looked to be a clear handball by Sevilla defender Diego Carlos after 17 minutes and then declined to show Real’s Eduardo Camavinga a second yellow card for a foul from behind on Antony Martial in the 37th.
The referee also disallowed Vinicius Jr’s equaliser for Real for a marginal handball decision in the 78th minute, sticking by his call after being sent to the pitchside monitor by VAR.
“We did it even after a lot of controversy because we don’t understand how the ref can call a handball by Vinicius and not call it for Diego Carlos,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
Sevilla got in front early in the first half after two mistakes from Real defender Eder Militao in a four minute span.
First, Rakitic fired a free-kick through the Real wall to open the scoring in the 21st after Militao left a gaping hole and four minutes later the Brazilian let Jesus Corona run behind the defence to cross for the unmarked Lamela to make it 2-0.
After Camavinga’s close call for fouling Martial, Ancelotti brought off the young French midfielder at the break for Rodrygo, a move that changed the game in Real’s favour as the Brazilian gave a superb performance off the bench.
He scored Real’s first goal five minutes into the second half, started the move that ended with fellow substitute Nacho netting the second in the 82nd and 10 minutes later crossed for LaLiga top scorer Benzema to fire home the winner.
It was Benzema’s 25th goal this season, his best tally in a single league campaign in his Real career – surpassing the 2015-16 season when scored 24.
“The players didn’t lose their heads after two mistakes and they are responsible for this incredible come from behind win,” added a relieved Ancelotti.
“This team doesn’t surprise me but what happened in the second half leaves me very proud. I want to thank all the players.”
Barcelona host relegation-threatened Cadiz on Monday.
Photo Real Madrid’s striker Karim Benzema (R) celebrates his winning goal during the Spanish LaLiga soccer match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid held at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, in Seville, southern Spain, 17 April 2022. EPA-EFE/Julio Munoz