Real Betis 3 – 5 Real Madrid – How it happened in La Liga

SEVILLE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 18: Marco Asensio of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring a goal during the La Liga match between Real Betis and Real Madrid at Benito Villamrin stadium on February 18, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
SEVILLE, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 18: Marco Asensio of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring a goal during the La Liga match between Real Betis and Real Madrid at Benito Villamrin stadium on February 18, 2018 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images) /

Real Madrid defeated Real Betis 3-5 after a wild match. It wasn’t perfect, but Zidane’s men had what it took to get all three points.

First Half

Zidane went with what on paper looked to be a 4-4-2, with Kovacic and Casemirio as a double pivot in the center, Asensio and Vazquez flanking them, and Bale and Ronaldo up front.

It didn’t take long for Real Madrid to get on the scoresheet. Marcelo began bombing down the left flank and launching crosses in. One of these crosses was deflected out to Lucas Vazquez, who intelligently and patiently pulled back to Ronaldo. Ronaldo pulled the trigger instantly and fired on goal, a powerful shot which Adan slapped out. Adan’s parry went straight out to the head of Asensio who headed home with precision.

After going down, Betis looked to grow into the game. They began to push forward into Madrid’s half and play dangerous crosses which, with some better shooting, could have really threatened Madrid’s goal. Keylor Navas was called into action to make a beautiful save on a free kick. Boudebouz and Moron in particular looked especially dangerous in Madrid’s half.

Marcelo was forced off the pitch due to injury about halfway during the first half. He went down clutching his hamstring, and tried to walk it off, but ultimately had to be replaced by Theo.

Los Blancos, on the other hand, lost their early momentum about the 20th minute park, and began looking defensively chaotic and unorganized. Betis capitalized on Madrid’s poor defense in the 33rd minute as Mandi leapt to meet a header and found little resistance in the box.

Los Blancos started pressing forward to try to get their lead back, and nearly capitalized twice right after conceding. Casemiro played Ronaldo through on goal, but Ronaldo was ultimately ruled offside.

In the process of pressing forward for the goal, Madrid were leaving tons of space at the back and demonstrating their usual poor defense in transition. Ramos and Carvajal in particular were marauding forward and leaving lots of space behind to exploit, which Joaquin and Boudebouz were happy to oblige.

Junior Firpo found space for a shot in the box, which Navas could only push behind him. Nacho, looking to recover the ball, clattered it back into his own net for an ugly own goal. Madrid went into halftime trailing 2-1.

Second Half

The second half began as a choppy, tense affair. It didn’t take long before players from both teams to get yellow cards, a trend that would continue throughout the half.

Madrid started the half with much more intensity, and looked to implement a press against Betis. For a while, it looked like Betis was just going to pass their way through the press, as Boudebouz  nutmegged his way through Real Madrid’s midfield time and time again.

Finally, though, the pressure began to start working for Real Madrid, and Los Blancos poured forward looking for goals. Sergio Ramos leveled the score from a header on a corner delivered by Lucas Vazquez, a much needed equalizer just five minutes into the second half.

With that, Betis increasingly looked pushed back and nervous in defense, and Madrid’s confidence picked up. Carvajal broke free on the left hand side, skipping past Betis with ease, and pulling back into Asensio who fired first-touch into the back of the net to give Real Madrid the lead.

Given Madrid’s propensity to concede goals at random, they knew that a one goal lead wouldn’t be enough, and kept hunting to put some distance between them and Betis. Another goal was just around the corner, as Casemiro played a wonderful little ball over the top to Ronaldo, who cut inside and calibrated a shot perfectly into the net. 2-4 to Madrid.

Madrid’s fourth goal really seemed to deflate Betis, and the game, along with the fans in the stadium, seemed to lose some of the energy that had the place rocking throughout much of the first half. For about fifteen minutes after Madrid scored, the game looked to be ticking down without much more action.

But then, around the 83rd minute, Betis pulled a goal out of nowhere. This time, it was substitute Sergio Leon who found himself on the end of a Junior Firpo pass at the back post and put Betis within striking distance of Madrid at 3-4.

Zidane made a puzzling substitution in the 88th minute as he brought Ronaldo off and put Benzema on in his place. Attacker for attacker, like for like, it’s hard to know why Zidane thought this was necessary, except perhaps to save Ronaldo’s energy for upcoming matches.

There was apparently a method to Zidane’s madness, though, as Benzema found a late goal after a sloppy giveaway by Betis deep into their own half.

Final Thoughts

While he maybe could have done better on Nacho’s own-goal, Keylor Navas was fantastic throughout the night. He came up with a number of huge saves, and even did his best Manuel Neuer impression at one point with some great sweeper-keeper action.

Save a few moments, Gareth Bale looked mostly invisible against Betis. His performance picked up in the second half until he was subbed off for Isco around the 70th minute. Many thought that a healthy Bale would be a huge lift for Madrid in the second half of the season, but his performance against Betis did not live up to expectations.

Next: Time for Marco Asensio to start?

This was an up and down performance. Real Madrid could have done much better in defense, and the errors were evident in Betis’ three goals. But overall, Madrid showed strength and composure in the second half, and got the goals they needed to get all the points.

Stay tuned to The Real Champs for more Real Madrid coverage.