Magical Isco rescues Madrid

Isco capped off a sensational performance with a last-minute winner as Real Madrid came back from behind to beat Sporting Gijon 3-2 on Saturday.

Goals from Duje Cop and Mikel Vesga put Sporting 2-1 up, but Isco’s fine solo effort cancelled out the former’s flicked finish, before the midfielder popped up at the death to not only break Asturian hearts but push Madrid closer to a first La Liga title in five years.

Sergio Ramos was Madrid’s only first-team regular that started against Sporting, with Fabio Coentrao making his first League start for Los Blancos in two years.

The struggling Asturians last beat Madrid at home in 1994, although they did stun the Santiago Bernabeu with a 1-0 win only six years ago.

Sporting were in no mood to sit back, despite the gulf in quality between the two sides. Moi Gomez’s cross towards the far post was beautifully knocked down by Cop for Carlos Carmona to put away from a yard out, but Nacho Fernandez intervened in the nick of time.

Danilo’s driven cross was then met by an unmarked Lucas Vazquez in the hosts’ box, but his bullet header could only soar above Ivan Cuellar’s goal.

From that, Mikel Vesga played arguably the pass of the season, scooping the ball over Madrid’s defence, for Cop, who guided a finish past Kiko Casilla on the half-volley.

Just three minutes later, however, Isco danced his way through the Sporting box, before curling a masterful finish into Cuellar’s top-left corner.

The former Malaga ace was at his imperious best in Gijon, and his angled through ball for Lucas Vazquez split the Sporting defence in two. The winger teed up Alvaro Morata for 2-1 but was a yard offside prior to his assist.

The second half started just as quickly, with Nacho’s backpost header parried away by Cuellar, who also made enough contact to deny Morata from connecting with the rebound.

Sporting managed to regain their lead through Vesga as the Athletic Bilbao loanee looped a header over Casilla, who was stuck in no-man’s land.

However, that advantage lasted little more than nine minutes. Madrid began upping the ante as they desperately sought the equaliser, and Danilo’s pinpoint cross picked out Morata, who climbed above his marker to head past Cuellar.

Isco then came a Jorge Mere tackle away from scoring arguably the goal of the season. The midfielder skipped past almost the entire Sporting team and got into the box, but he was finally stopped by the teenage defender.

Lucas kicked the bench out of anger after he was substituted by Mariano Diaz, and the young striker threw himself onto a cross but couldn’t keep his free header down.

It was left to Isco, who fired a low shot through Jean-Sylvain Babin’s legs and into Cuellar’s bottom-left corner for another late Madrid goal.

Los Merengues are now unbeaten since mid-February in the League and provisionally move six points clear of Barcelona at the top, with a game in hand on their Catalan rivals.

Sporting Gijon 2-3 Real Madrid

Cop 14, Vesga 50 (SG) Isco 17, 90, Morata 59 (RM)

Sporting Gijon: Cuellar; Lillo, Mere, Amorebieta, Babin; Isma, Vesga, Sergio (Afif 90); Carmona, Cop (Ndi 79), Moi (Cases 69)

Real Madrid: Casilla; Danilo, Nacho, Ramos, Coentrao (Marcelo 57); James, Kovacic (Casemiro 89), Isco; Lucas (Mariano 71), Morata, Asensio

Referee: Fernandez Borbalan