Benzema rallies Madrid past Sevilla, closer to league title

MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema came up big yet again.

He scored in second-half stoppage time on Sunday as Real Madrid rallied to a 3-2 win at Sevilla and moved closer to winning the Spanish league title for the second time in three seasons.

Madrid conceded two goals four minutes apart in the first half but came back after halftime to win and open a 15-point lead at the top of the standings with six rounds to go.

“Everyone is waiting for Madrid to stumble but Madrid doesn’t stumble,” Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said. “Madrid has heart, character and quality. It was a deserved win. The league is not over yet, there are several matches left, but it was a big push for us today.”

Madrid’s closest challenger is Barcelona, which has two games in hand, including against relegation-threatened Cádiz on Monday.

Third-place Sevilla could have cut Madrid’s gap to nine points with a win at its Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium but instead saw its 15-game unbeaten streak at home this season come to an end.

Benzema scored his 15th goal in the last 10 matches with a shot from close range after a pass by Rodrygo two minutes into stoppage time.

The France striker is the Spanish league’s leading scorer with 25 goals and is having one of his best seasons yet with Madrid. He had already been decisive in recent Champions League matches against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, being crucial in Madrid’s run to the semifinals.

Sevilla looked on its way to a comfortable victory after opening the scoring with Ivan Rakitic’s low free kick in the 21st and adding to the lead with Erik Lamela’s goal from inside the area in a breakaway in the 25th.

But Madrid dominated after that and pulled closer with Rodrygo’s goal from close range after a pass by Dani Carvajal in the 50th. Carvajal then set up Nacho Fernández’s equalizer from inside the area in the 82nd, a few moments after Nacho had entered the match.

Madrid forward Vinícius Júnior had a goal disallowed in the 74th for hand ball after a video review that lasted several minutes.

Sevilla has been hit hard by injuries and has won only one of its last six league games. It stayed tied on points with both Barcelona and fourth-place Atlético Madrid.

ATLÉTICO WINS AGAIN

Yannick Carrasco converted a penalty kick 10 minutes into stoppage time as Atlético beat Espanyol 2-1 to end its three-match winless streak and strengthen its hold on fourth place.

Carrasco scored from the penalty spot in the final play of the game at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to give Atlético a three-point cushion over fifth-place Real Betis, which was held at sixth-place Real Sociedad on Friday.

The penalty for Atlético was awarded following a lengthy video review to determine whether the ball touched the hand of Espanyol striker Raúl de Tomás inside the area.

Carrasco had already scored to put Atlético ahead in the 52nd, while De Tomás equalized for the visitors in the 74th.

Atlético played a man down from the 71st after midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia was sent off for a handball that earned him a second yellow card. Espanyol equalized in the ensuing free kick with De Tomás’ shot getting past Atlético goalkeeper Jan Oblak.

Atlético hadn’t won in three matches. It also hadn’t scored goal during that streak, including in the 0-0 home draw against Manchester City on Wednesday in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals, when it was eliminated 1-0 on aggregate after losing the first leg in England.

Espanyol had won three of its last five games, with one loss and a draw. It sits in 11th place.

ATHLETIC STALLS

Athletic Bilbao lost 2-0 at home to Celta Vigo to lose ground in the fight for a place in a European competition next season.

Iago Aspas and Fran Beltrán scored first-half goals for 11th-place Celta, which was winless in four matches.

Athletic hadn’t lost in three matches. It stayed in eighth place, four points behind Villarreal in seventh.

LEVANTE NOT LAST

Levante moved out of last place with a 4-1 rout against Granada, which played with 10 men from the 54th after Germán Sánchez Barahona was sent off with a second yellow card.

It was the second win in the last three matches for Levante, which has won 14 points from its last nine league matches, with four victories, two draws and three losses. It next hosts Sevilla.

Granada had its second straight loss and stayed in 16th place, one point outside the relegation zone. It next visits Atlético.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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