Under-pressure Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hailed the unity among his players after they bounced back from a heavy defeat at Paris St Germain by beating in-form Sevilla.
Wednesday’s miserable 3-0 Champions League loss in the French capital led to reports Zidane could be on his way out of the Bernabeu only six months after returning as manager.
But his chances of being given more time were boosted by a second-half header from Karim Benzema, which secured a slender 1-0 success at a boisterous Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Victory in Andalusia moved the visitors level on 11 points with league leaders Athletic Bilbao, while inflicting a first defeat on Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked by Real just under 11 months ago.
“We’re happy because we played the full 90 minutes at a high level at a difficult place,” said Zidane at his post-match press conference, according to Real’s website.
“This is a group win and I’m happy for all the players. Sevilla have done well since the beginning of the season and we have to congratulate the players.
“We played with personality for the 90 minutes. Everyone helped each other out on the field and what is obvious is the defensive solidarity.
“We know how difficult it is playing here.”
Frenchman Zidane guided Madrid to three European crowns during his previous spell in charge but endured a difficult end to last season and a low-key start to this.
He handed a first league start to big-money summer signing Eden Hazard on Sunday, selecting him as part of three-pronged attack with Gareth Bale and match-winner Benzema.
Former Chelsea playmaker Hazard was denied a maiden Real goal in the first half of a tight and, at times, tetchy encounter, while Bale poked into the side-netting late on after Sevilla substitute Javier Hernandez correctly had a goal disallowed for offside.
While the game was short on chances, Zidane praised the clinical nature of compatriot Benzema and defensive contribution of his attacking talent.
“We know what Benzema is about and he got us the win again,” he added.
“We defended well and read the game well tactically. That is crucial when you take on such a big team. We knew we could score and thanks to Karim, we did so.
“We know we can do more in attack and we will do that. The team work we saw was fundamental in this win. James (Rodriguez), Gareth, Hazard and the others were important. We defended well and at a place like this you need to.”
Real host Osasuna on Wednesday before next weekend’s Madrid derby away to city neighbours Atletico.
They are yet to impress in front of their own fans this season, being held to a 1-1 draw by Real Valladolid before scraping a 3-2 success over Levante.
“On Wednesday we will try to play with intensity and go out to win the game from the start,” said Zidane.
“Now we have to rest and congratulate the players because they have given everything out on the field and I’m happy.”
Sevilla boss Lopetegui, who was dismissed after less than four months in charge of Real, felt his current side merited a draw against his former one.
“The team has fought until the end,” he said, according to Sevilla’s website.
“We had the idea of ending actions with a shot and preventing their transitions. It has not been so and we have paid for it
“It is a shame not to take a point in this even match.”