Real Madrid suffered a second major blow to their La Liga title chances in the space of four days with Sevilla inflicting a 2-1 defeat on Carlo Ancelotti’s side at the Ramon Sanchez Pijuan.
As in their agonizing loss to Barcelona in El Clasico on Sunday, Madrid again had the lead in Seville. Cristiano Ronaldo’s deflected free-kick gave the visitors a deserved advantage in just the 14th minute. But Sevilla recovered from their poor start and Carlos Bacca struck back only five minutes later. Madrid continued to create chances for the remainder of the first half, but couldn’t find a way through. And with 18 minutes remaining, Ivan Rakitic produced a glorious piece of skill before setting up Bacca to get his second and send Sevilla on their way to their sixth straight La Liga win.
The result concluded a disastrous week for Madrid’s title chances, which, having gone 31 matches unbeaten, had previously looked so positive. Level on points with Atletico Madrid and four ahead of Barcelona going into El Clasico, Madrid are now three points behind their neighbors and two behind their rivals from Catalonia. With both their title challengers also holding the tiebreaker of better head-to-head records over Madrid, Lois Merengues face a major uphill fight to reclaim the title going into the final eight games.
Madrid, who had made two enforced changes from Sunday -- Asier Illarramendi and Raphael Varane replacing the suspended Angel di Maria and Sergio Ramos -- had looked like rebounding from their weekend disappointment in the early stages in Seville. With the hosts looking vulnerable, Gareth Bale fired a shot over the bar, while Karim Benzema twice had efforts denied by the excellent Beto in the Sevilla goal.
When the goal did come there was a major element of fortune about it. Ronaldo’s strike from 25 yards looked to be on target when it took a key deflection off the outstretched arm of Bacca. It could well have been a penalty but instead there was no need for the referee to intervene as the ball wrong-footed Beto and found the net.
At that point Madrid looked in control, thus there was a degree of surprise when Sevilla quickly got back on level terms. The visitors were badly caught out from their own corner as Sevilla broke and former Real Madrid wideman Jose Antonio Reyes prodded the ball behind the opposition defense for Bacca to atone for his part in his side going behind by finishing sharply.
Despite that blow, Madrid still had chances to go back in front before the break. Beto was again alert to deny Ronaldo and Bale, before the post came to his rescue. Ronaldo got to a scooped through ball from Illarramendi just ahead of the Sevilla goalkeeper and lofted it over his compatriot but could then only watch on as it struck the post before being cleared off the line.
The second half was a different story. While Madrid still had plenty of possession and Marcelo time and again was found in space getting forward down the left, they failed to carry the same threat on the Sevilla goal. And entering the final 20 minutes the home side scored a goal well worthy of such a potentially significant win. Rakitic produced a sublime flick over the head of Pepe to turn the Madrid defender on halfway and the Croatian then bided his time before threading through a perfectly weighted through ball for Bacca to shoot off Diego Lopez and into the back of the net for his 14th La Liga goal of the season.