MADRID (AP) — Real Madrid held on to beat Sevilla 2-1 and increase its lead of the Spanish league on Wednesday despite a spate of injuries and not counting on suspended forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
In a match postponed from December for Madrid's participation in the Club World Cup, Madrid lost Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez in an injury-plagued first half at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium that also claimed Sevilla goalkeeper Antonio "Beto" Bastos. Madrid also saw Marcelo pick up a fifth yellow card, meaning the pacesetter will be short-handed for Saturday's visit to defending champion Atletico Madrid.
Ramos clutched his left thigh and asked to be substituted in the eight minute. Rodriguez gave Madrid the 12th-minute lead before he too left after doctors examined with hurt right foot in the 25th.
Beto needed to be carried off following a violent collision with Karim Benzema in the 35th, and a minute later substitute Jese Rodriguez made it 2-0.
Dangerous early when Vicente Iborra hit the post down 1-0, Sevilla also mustered a late push and substitute Iago Aspas scored to keep the result in doubt for the final 10 minutes.
The win gave Madrid a four-point lead over Barcelona. Atletico trails by seven points in third place. Sevilla was left in fourth.
Ronaldo did not play as he completed the second of a two-game suspension for kicking a Cordoba player.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti, however, said he will likely be without several other of this first-choice players against Atletico with Rodriguez and Ramos set to join Luka Modric and Pepe on the injured list.
"Sure we are going to lose very important players, but I can't lament it because I have others," said Carlo Ancelotti. He said that the club would appeal Marcelo's booking.
Sevilla manager Unai Emery's tweak to move holding midfielder Iborra into strike where he used his size to win high balls worked in creating scoring chances. But, unfortunately for the visitors, Iborra and his teammates struggled them converting into goals.
"Even playing well and creating chances it's tough to beat Madrid at its stadium," said Emery. "We aren't satisfied with just playing well, but I am proud of my players for being able to compete for 90 minutes.
Sevilla started well and saw Victor "Machin" Vitolo squander an excellent opportunity to take the early lead two minutes in when he couldn't beat goalkeeper Iker Casillas.
Marcelo picked out Rodriguez's run with a pass for the Colombia midfielder to head home for the lead.
Sevilla continued to provide more in attack with Iborra rounding Casillas only to hit the post in the 18th.
Jese Rodriguez, who had come on for James Rodriguez, finished off a four-on-two counterattack after Carlos Bacca lost the ball when he fired the ball beyond substitute goalie Sergio Rico.
Iborra was left to rue another great look in the 60th. Sevilla then pushed Madrid into its box after Aspas scored.