Rodrygo scores two to lead Real Madrid to win at Sevilla
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rodrygo scored twice to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win at Sevilla on Saturday in a Spanish league match that was missing fellow Brazilian Vinícius Júnior following the international uproar against the racial abuse he has endured.
Vinícius did not travel with the team due to what coach Carlo Ancelotti said was a knee injury that also kept him from playing midweek against Rayo Vallecano. His absence from the field comes amid a huge uproar that has reached his native Brazil after he was racially abused by fans during last weekend’s game at Valencia.
After the match, Ancelotti said that what he considered the “good” atmosphere inside Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium meant that things may be changing for the better, even if Vinícius was not there.
“I did not hear any insults, and this is the right way. We must congratulate the spectators,” Ancelotti said. “They supported their side and did so correctly. They jeered our players, but that is normal. I hope we can have this type of atmosphere because it is good for soccer. ... Last week is over, the atmosphere has changed, and today was a good sign. People are starting to understand what one can and cannot be done in a stadium."
Ancelotti added that the status of Vinícius’ knee will determine whether he can participate in Madrid’s last game of the season next weekend: a home game against Athletic Bilbao.
RODRYGO STEPS UP
Karim Benzema and forward Marco Asensio also missed the match with an injury.
The 22-year-old Rodrygo did just fine all on his own as the sole forward in Madrid’s starting lineup along with five midfielders.
Rodrygo, who missed a clear opportunity to score early in the game, said he was a bit upset with Ancelotti for replacing him with defender Nacho Fernández with 20 minutes to play to help protect the lead.
“I wanted a hat trick, but the coach said that was enough,” Rodrygo said.
Ancelotti, when asked about his player's desire to keep playing, said: “He wanted to score, I wanted the win. We had different interests. But the team is always most important thing.”
Sevilla coach José Mendilibar, who has turned the team around since his arrival two months ago, rested some of his top players like striker Youssef En-Nesyri ahead of Wednesday’s Europa League final against AS Roma in Budapest. Sevilla will be aiming to win a record-extending seventh Europa League title.
Rafa Mir finished off an initial shot by Bryan Gil that had hit a Madrid defender and fell to the striker in the area to give the hosts a third-minute lead.
Rodrygo equalized in the 29th with a free kick that he sent around the side of the defensive barrier and caught goalkeeper Yassine Bounou off guard.
Érik Lamela almost put Sevilla back in front when he hit the post in the 36th.
Rodrygo scored his second in the 69th after the Brazil forward received a ball from Toni Kroos on a counterattack and used a slick change of foot to glide past defender Gonzalo Montiel before beating Bounou.
Sevilla's Marcos Ocuña was sent off for a direct red card in the 84th after his studs-first tackle on Dani Ceballos.
The win left Madrid in second place and Sevilla in 10th with one game left. Barcelona clinched the title three rounds ago.
The other nine games of this penultimate round will be played simultaneously on Sunday with seven teams involved in the relegation battle.
Granada and Las Palmas will return to the topflight after finishing the second division in first and second place, respectively.
Levante, Alavés, Eibar and Albacete, which finished third-to-sixth, will face a two-round playoff to decide which one is also promoted.
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