Real Madrid eased the pressure on coach Zinedine Zidane with a 1-0 win at Sevilla in La Liga on Saturday.
Vinicius Junior played a decisive role and could have scored inside the first 60 seconds when he shot wide from inside the box. The Brazilian forward threatened again when he closed down goalkeeper Bono's clearance, only for Diego Carlos to clear off the line.
Early in the second half, the visitors opened the scoring. Vinicius got a touch on Ferland Mendy's cross, but it was Bono who spilled the ball into the net for an own goal. Sevilla pushed for an equaliser, but Madrid hung on to take a first La Liga win since October.
Madrid went into this match on a dreadful run, with just one win in five matches in all competitions, and facing a daunting, potentially season-deciding triple-header of games against Sevilla, Borussia Monchengladbach and Atletico Madrid. They come away from the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan with their confidence renewed, their domestic form back on track and ready to take on their next challenge in the Champions League.
The return to the team of Vinicius -- underused in recent weeks after starting the previous four matches on the bench -- was another plus. Yes, he's frustrating, and yes, he got a huge slice of luck for the goal, but he brings pace and unpredictability to the team, which have both been in short supply lately.
This was far from a convincing, fluid victory; Madrid look slow and uncertain at times. But perhaps that's understandable given their recent form. Any kind of win would do here. They'll need to improve, and fast, to get a result against Gladbach on Wednesday in a game that could determine the future of Zidane. Then again to match Diego Simeone's Atletico next weekend.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Zidane had never gone four La Liga games without a win as Real Madrid coach, and here he avoided setting an unwelcome record. An under-fire Zidane only made two changes from the team that lost to Shakhtar Donetsk, but both were significant. Casemiro -- whose absence in Kiev was inexplicable -- returned to the midfield, as Martin Odegaard dropped out. In attack, Vinicius replaced Marco Asensio, and contributed to the goal. There were tense moments late on, and Zidane made just one substitution, trusting the players on the pitch to get the job done.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 7 -- Had a quiet first half without facing a single shot on target. His first save was straightforward, from Luuk de Jong's overhead kick. Then he made a much better one from Lucas Ocampos. Courtois hadn't kept a clean sheet in six La Liga games, so this represented progress.
DF Lucas Vazquez, 7 -- Does an unfussy, effective job playing out of position at right-back almost every week, and has a great attitude.
DF Raphael Varane, 8 -- His Champions League form has been awful, but Varane has been better in La Liga. He impressed here. One important first-half challenge on Munir, and a good second-half header to clear Suso's cross.
DF Nacho, 8 -- Did extremely well once again in the continued absence of Ramos. A physical, combative display up against the robust De Jong.
DF Ferland Mendy, 7 -- Faced one of La Liga's best wingers in Ocampos. A better game after a poor midweek display. Provided the cross, a good one too, for Madrid's goal.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- Successfully walked a tightrope, as a booking would have seen him miss next week's Madrid derby. Lucky not to pick up a card for a second-half foul on Ocampos.
MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Went close to scoring with a curling first-half shot, and had to take a yellow card when he challenged Ocampos to prevent a counter attack.
MF Luka Modric, 7 -- Faced Croatian compatriot Ivan Rakitic in midfield. When Madrid are struggling and under pressure, it's so often Modric who offers a release by turning away from danger and into space. Worked hard without the ball too.
FW Vinicius Junior, 8 -- Back in the team and looked keen to make up for lost time. Could have scored inside the first minute and his work-rate almost led to a goal not long afterwards. Played the key role in Madrid's goal, getting a touch on Mendy's cross for Bono to do the rest.
FW Rodrygo, 6 -- His first league start since September. Involved at first, an accurate cross providing Vinicius with his early chance, but looked tired after that.
FW Karim Benzema, 6 -- Benzema's only first-half opportunity was also arguably Madrid's best, when he had a low shot well saved by Bono. The team will need the No. 9 to find his goal scoring form soon if they're to turn the season around.
FW Marco Asensio, 6 -- Zidane has kept him in the team lately when his performances hadn't deserved it. Here he came off the bench, replacing Rodrygo, as the team came under pressure.