Real Madrid lose to Sevilla in comeback thriller ahead of Clasico
Real Madrid suffered their first defeat under Rafael Benitez as Sevilla produced a remarkable turnaround to win 3-2 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday evening.
The visitors took the lead through a spectacular overhead-kick from former Sevilla player Sergio Ramos on 22 minutes, but Ciro Immobile scored his first goal for the Andalusians to level the scores 10 minutes before half-time.
Sevilla finished the half well and came out even stronger after the break, taking the lead through Ever Banega and increasing their advantage thanks to substitute Fernando Llorente, with the capital club unable to find a way back despite a fine stoppage-time consolation goal from James Rodriguez on his return after two months out.
The result ensured Primera Division leaders Barcelona will head into the Clasico at the Bernabeu in a fortnight's time three points ahead of their arch rivals.
Benitez's first few months in charge of the Spanish giants have been marked by a solid defence that had conceded only three goals in all competitions. In the space of 90 minutes, Emery's men put as many goals past them as they had leaked in their last 15 matches.
This was a brilliant performance from Sevilla, especially after suffering a 3-1 midweek loss to Manchester City that endangered their chances of qualifying for the latter stages of the Champions League, and they moved into the top half of La Liga for the first time this term.
Immobile was given just the second start of his Sevilla career due to the absence of injured top scorer Kevin Gameiro, while Gareth Bale returned for Madrid after three weeks on the sidelines with a calf injury.
Kiko Casilla played a second successive league game with Keylor Navas injured again despite playing in the 1-0 win over Paris St Germain in midweek, and Nacho -- the match-winner against the French champions -- deputised at left-back for the injured Marcelo.
The Spain international had the first proper attempt of the game as Madrid began the game in a confident mood, striking the post on the volley after 11 minutes.
The visitors capitalised on their strong start midway through the first half, with Ramos conjuring up a bicycle kick from Isco's corner and powering the ball past Sergio Rico. Unfortunately for the defender, he landed on his left shoulder -- which he dislocated six weeks earlier -- and was forced off just a few minutes later, replaced by Raphael Varane.
Rico kept the visitors' advantage to a minimum by tipping away a hopeful yet accurate effort from Bale, and his outfield teammates soon got their act together and began to assert their grip on the game.
Immobile got his first sniff of goal but was unable to get his shot away and Madrid goalkeeper Casilla began to look nervous.
Sevilla exploited his uncertainty from a corner 10 minutes before the break. Yevhen Konoplyanka sent the ball towards the back post, evading the custodian's grasp and it landed at the feet of Immobile, who arrowed in from close range but a tight angle.
The Italian removed his shirt in celebrating his maiden Sevilla goal, earning himself a booking.
The striker should have put his side in front just five minutes later but side-footed wide of the near post.
However, Immobile did play a part in the move which lead to Sevilla finally taking the lead on the hour mark, playing a one-two with the lively Konoplyanka in the area, allowing the Ukrainian to pull the ball back for Banega to smash home.
Sevilla's lead was deserved but it was also fragile, preserved only by a wonderful save by Rico, who got down low to stop Casemiro's header from a corner.
Sevilla then went straight down the other end to kill the game off, Llorente ghosting in ahead of a sleepy Madrid defence to nod in Mariano's cross.
The visitors managed to pull a goal back in stoppage time through Rodriguez's low finish, but the points already belonged to Sevilla.