Veteran midfielder Luka Modric’s curling strike gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win over Sevilla on Sunday, lifting them eight points clear of Barcelona atop La Liga where they are unbeaten in 20 games.

Madrid’s last league loss came in September.

Third-placed Girona are a further point adrift. They are not in action until Monday when they take on Rayo Vallecano.

With Jude Bellingham and Joselu both injured, and Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Carvajal suspended, Madrid faltered in the early exchanges and Youssef En-Nesyri missed an early chance for the visitors.

Sunday’s game appeared headed for a stalemate until 38-year-old Modric, who was on as a late substitute, produced a blistering strike from outside the box after 81 minutes as the referee waved away angry Sevilla claims for off-side.

An equally impressive Lucas Vazquez strike had been wiped off by VAR after 10 minutes, a decision which prompted jeers and brought a yellow card for Real coach Carlo Ancelotti.

“We deserved the win, we kept up the intensity until the very end and this is what happens when you achieve that,” said the Italian coach.

The match saw 37-year-old Sergio Ramos’ return to the Santiago Bernabeu where he spent 16 seasons, but it was Modric who stole the headlines.

“We proved that we never give up. That is in Real Madrid’s DNA,” said Modric.

“We would have preferred to have scored earlier, but it’s even more thrilling when it comes late.”

Uruguayan midfielder Federico Valverde had a lively game, hitting a post and scraping the crossbar in the first half as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo also went close.

Vinicius was the man behind Lucas Vazquez’s goal which was ruled out when Nacho had clearly fouled Youssef En-Nesyri in the run-up.

A minute’s silence was observed before the game in memory of victims of the apartment block fire in the Spanish city of Valencia.

On Saturday, Xavi’s rejigged Barcelona side thrashed Getafe 4-0 to climb to second with recalled duo Joao Felix and Raphinha on the scoresheet.

Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong and Fermin Lopez were also on target.

“We knew which spaces to attack and opened them up on several occasions and that’s where the goals came from. It’s a victory which gives us a little more peace of mind,” said Barca coach Xavi.

Bottom side Almeria twice came from behind to hold Atletico Madrid to a 2-2 draw. The stalemate left the hosts winless this season after 26 matches.

Atletico, who lost 1-0 in the Champions League last 16 first leg tie at Inter Milan in midweek, remain fourth, 13 points off leaders Real Madrid.

Pierre Daccache, with AFP