Casemiro’s brutal thunderbolt strike into the top corner may be looked back on as a pivotal moment in Real Madrid’s season. Santiago Solari and his team need it to be, desperately.
After a drab first-half display against Sevilla on Saturday, Los Blancos improved after the break and began to dominate.
However, as the clock ticked down, it looked like they would only take a point from an otherwise encouraging performance.
Brazilian defensive midfielder Casemiro had other ideas, though. With just 12 minutes to go, he rifled a long-distance strike into the top corner.
Luka Modric added another in the final stages to secure a victory that moves Madrid above Sevilla and into third place in La Liga, just seven points off leaders Barcelona, who play on Sunday against Leganes.
Real fans certainly enjoyed the goal, too. Having endured so much mediocrity this season, they celebrated Casemiro’s sublime strike just as wildly as the players.
It had been tough going up until then. Madrid drifted in the first half in the same way they have done for much of Solari’s reign.
They weren’t dominant, unable to put Sevilla on the back foot. At times, it almost seemed like they didn’t believe themselves to be the superior side.
Only Vinicius Junior offered them any spark, any signs of life.
Indeed, while more established and illustrious names like Karim Benzema appear inhibited, the 18-year-old Brazilian has exhibited no fear.
While Vinicius is rough around the edges and still has a way to go to become a top-class striker, his flair and enthusiasm have been a breath of fresh air for a Madrid side struggling to stay afloat.
This squad itself hasn’t had major surgery done to it in years, with only reserves coming in and out while the bulk of the starting XI has stayed the same.
Vinicius, thus, adds vitality and vim to a stagnant and stale squad.
In freezing conditions, fans at the Santiago Bernabeu found some warmth in the Brazilian’s first-half showing.
And if Vinicius carried the team’s hopes in the first period, Madrid showed up as a whole after the break.
Perhaps in their best spell of football since Solari took over at the end of October, Madrid drove Sevilla backwards and remembered just who they were.
The European champions found some pride and passion, taking the game to the visitors, who depended more and more on goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik to bail them out of trouble as the game wore on.
Casemiro’s sensational strike eventually broke Sevilla’s resistance and earned Madrid a fully deserved victory.
It was a goal and a win which, for the first time in a long time, brought smiles and, more importantly, belief back to the Bernabeu.