Pellegrini lauds 'important step'
Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini hailed his side's last-gasp victory over Sevilla as "psychologically important".
With leaders Barcelona being held 2-2 at Almeria earlier in the evening, Los Merengues knew they would take over at the summit if they made it 13 wins out of 13 at their Bernabeu home this season. However, Real looked to have wasted the opportunity as two defensive errors at the start of each half allowed Sevilla to build a 2-0 lead with only 30 minutes to go.
The big-spending capital outfit staged a stunning recovery, though, drawing level through goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, and then hitting the woodwork three times and creating a host of other chances before substitute Rafael van der Vaart stabbed home the winner two minutes into injury-time.
That victory lifted Real above Barcelona and gave them a huge confidence boost ahead of Wednesday's UEFA Champions League last 16, second leg against Lyon, which the Spanish giants will begin at a one-goal deficit following defeat in France. Pellegrini admitted his side started slowly but claimed they fully deserved the three points in the end.
"We were asleep for the first 15 minutes. Maybe we were thinking of Barcelona's draw in Almeria, of being leaders, of the Champions League game ... nobody wanted to play in this manner," he said.
"But after Sevilla's goal we reacted and from then on we played great football, created many opportunities and managed to miss four or five clear goalscoring chances. They (Sevilla) barely had any chances and their two goals were quite strange and absurd.
"The scoreline did not reflect the difference there was between the two teams. We'd missed a lot of opportunities to score the third goal and psychologically it (the winner) was very important because it arrived in the last minute."
Pellegrini nevertheless warned against getting too carried away with what was Madrid's seventh successive league win. "It's important to be leaders, but the most important thing is not to depend on anybody, only on yourself," he said.
"We've taken an important step forward but it's not decisive. From here until the end of the season whoever makes the least mistakes will win the league. The season hasn't finished, there are 39 points still available and Barcelona will continue fighting."