Zinedine Zidane could breathe a sigh of relief as an own goal from Yassine Bounou gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win at Sevilla.
Madrid’s head coach has come under mounting pressure after an unsteady start to the season in LaLiga and in the Champions League.
His side carved out plenty of chances to beat Sevilla comfortably but could not find a decisive finish, until the home side's goalkeeper ran out of luck in the second half.
Ferland Mendy's low cross looked sure to be turned home by Vinicius Junior, but he made only the slightest of connections and the ball deflected in off Bounou, with Thibaut Courtois' late save from Lucas Ocampos at the other end securing a valuable victory.
1 - Yassine Bounou is the first goalkeeper to score an own goal in LaLiga this season and the first Sevilla goalkeeper to score an own goal in the competition in the 21st century. Misfortune.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 5, 2020
Bruised by a midweek defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk that has put Madrid in a European pickle, Zidane needed a reprieve going up against former Los Blancos boss Julen Lopetegui at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
Madrid spurned a glorious first-minute chance when Rodrygo found Vinicius unmarked in the penalty area, but a low shot towards the far corner bounced just wide.
Bounou then almost gifted Madrid an opener when his attempted clearance rattled against Vinicius and looped across goal.
Karim Benzema was waiting to nod in from close range but was beaten to the ball by defender Diego Carlos, who cushioned a header to the relieved Bounou.
Toni Kroos and Benzema went close before the break, but Sevilla's resistance was ended on the 55th-minute mark.
Benzema's clever pass picked out Mendy on the left, and his low centre should have been ideal for Vinicius but turned out to be far from it for Bounou.
His head-in-hands moment made Bounou the first Sevilla goalkeeper to score an own goal in LaLiga in the 21st century.
Suso went close to a spectacular equaliser but sent his shot just too high, with Courtois thankful to see it zip off target, before Madrid's goalkeeper saved well from Ocampos' acrobatic volley to seal the points.
What does it mean? Pure relief for Madrid
Madrid climbed to third in the table, at least temporarily, with this win that should give Zidane some succour. They were comfortably the better side until Sevilla came to life in the closing stages and began raining shots on the visitors’ goal.
Los Blancos had just 36.9 per cent of possession, but as a counter-attacking force they looked impressive at times. Without being remotely vintage, this was at least effective.
Vinicius sets up 'Bono' for big fall
Vinicius, who played three key passes and was involved in more duels (20) than any other Madrid player, might owe an apology to Bounou – the goalkeeper who shares a nickname with U2's frontman – because the Madrid forward really should have finished the chance himself.
Bounou seemed on the edge following an early mistake which almost led to Benzema scoring, and Vinicius' feather touch perhaps made what should have been a simple save from Mendy's cross more difficult; you could say the ball moved in mysterious ways.
Low pass mark for Casemiro
Casemiro's passing accuracy in the first half was a dismal 61.9 per cent, and he won possession only five times compared to conceding it on 14 occasions throughout the 90 minutes.
His passing figure rose slightly to 67.5 per cent by full-time, but it was a disappointing individual display, while he rode his luck to avoid a yellow card that would have kept him out of next week’s derby with Atletico.
Key Opta Facts
- Madrid have kept a clean sheet in consecutive LaLiga away games against Sevilla (W2) for the second time in the competition's history.
- Bounou is the only goalkeeper to score an own goal in LaLiga this season and the first Sevilla goalkeeper to score an own goal in the competition in the 21st century.
- Madrid have not lost any of their 25 LaLiga fixtures with left-back Mendy in the starting XI since last season (W18 D7), compared with their six defeats in 24 league games without him.
- Zidane has won eight games in all competitions against Sevilla (D1 L2), more than against any other opponent.
- Sevilla have lost consecutive games without scoring in all competitions for the first time under Julen Lopetegui.
- None of the last 31 LaLiga meetings between Sevilla and Madrid have finished a draw, since a 2-2 in May 2005.
- Sevilla attempted just three shots in the opening 45 minutes, their lowest tally in a first half of a game at home this season in all competitions.
Sevilla go to Rennes in the final round of Champions League group games on Tuesday and are already assured of a last-16 place.
Madrid face a more significant match at home against Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday, when they may need to win to reach the knockout stage.