James Rodriguez comes through for Madrid in Copa del Rey win
Real Madrid's James from Colombia, center right, celebrates after scoring a goal during a Spain's King's Cup soccer match between Real Madrid and Sevilla C.F. at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo)
MADRID (AP) — James Rodriguez made the most of a rare start for Real Madrid on Wednesday, scoring twice in a convincing 3-0 win over Sevilla in a first-leg match in the Copa del Rey's Round of 16.
Less than a month after he called for more playing time and said he might leave the club if things didn't change, the Colombian midfielder got to start at the Santiago Bernabeu. And his performance showed that Rodriguez believes he should still be considered for a place in Zinedine Zidane's regular starting lineup.
"Obviously we all want to play," Rodriguez said. "We all go through bad moments, but this is like a new beginning for me. I'm staying, I'm staying in Madrid."
He opened the scoring with a low, left-foot shot from outside the area in the 11th minute, and netted his second by converting a penalty just before halftime after Luka Modric had been fouled inside the area.
"He played a good game," Zidane said of Rodriguez, who was cheered loudly by the crowd when he was substituted near the end. "He scored the goals and worked well. I'm happy for the match he had."
Defender Raphael Varane scored the other goal with a header from the middle of the area in the 29th, as Madrid extended its unbeaten streak to 38 games - one short of the Spanish record set by Luis Enrique's Barcelona last season.
Zidane, celebrating one year at Madrid's helm, had downplayed Rodriguez's complaints following the Club World Cup in December, saying he counted on the talented midfielder going forward. He included Rodriguez in Wednesday's lineup after resting some of the regular starters, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Madrid, which beat Sevilla in the European Super Cup five months ago, will be the clear favorite for the second leg in Seville on Jan. 12. The teams are only four points apart atop the Spanish league, with Madrid first and Sevilla third.
Sevilla lost last season's Copa final to Barcelona, which plays at Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.
Also Wednesday, Real Sociedad earned a 3-1 home win against Villarreal in another matchup between teams near the top of the Spanish league table - Villarreal is fourth, one spot ahead of Real Sociedad.
In a game between second-division clubs, Alcorcon and Cordoba played to a scoreless draw.