Real Madrid rounded off a high-scoring and successful week with a 5-3 away win over Real Betis on Sunday evening which truly portrayed the bipolar campaign the Spanish capital side are enduring this year.
After Marco Asensio headed his side into the lead during the opening exchanges, Los Blancos’ defensive frailties were thrown into the spotlight once again, as Aissa Mandi squared things up before Nacho Fernandez bundled the ball into his own net just four minutes later.
However, after the break, Sergio Ramos quickly brought his side level before Asensio netted the famous all-whites’ 6000th league goal with a delicious first-time finish, completing the 15-minute comeback.
The clash looked all but a formality after Cristiano Ronaldo netted Real Madrid’s fourth of the evening shortly after the hour-mark, however, substitute Sergio Leon gave Betis a glimmer of hope going into the final five minutes of normal time after turning home from a tight angle.
But, while pushing for the equaliser, a misplaced Cristian Tello pass allowed Karim Benzema to grab a much-needed goal and secure an equally important three points, extending the buffer over Sevilla in fourth place to six once again.
Inside the highly charged, almost over spilling Estadio Benito Villamarin, both sides were afforded spells of expansive football during the opening exchanges, but it was the visitors who drew first blood on the 10-minute mark as Asensio nodded home from 12 yards.
The hosts’ lack of defensive action could certainly be called into question, as Cristiano Ronaldo was allowed to trot into the area before unleashing a stinging effort which was parried back into the path of the Spaniard by Beticos’ goalkeeper Antonio Adan, allowing the 22-year-old to direct his attempt into the corner of the net unopposed.
After finding themselves behind, Quique Setien’s men began to assert their style of play which has made them such an admirable outfit this term, and their spell of dominance almost proved fruitful shortly before the midway point of the first-half as Mandi latched onto Joaquin’s fizzed corner, but the defender could only flash his header wide.
As the first 45 ticked on, Real Betis maintained their grip on the contest, despite remaining behind on the scoreboard, and Joaquin, who has been a revelation in Seville so far this campaign, looked certain to pull his side level with a sweetly struck 25-yard free-kick, only for Los Blancos custodian Keylor Navas to produce, undoubtedly, one of his stops of the season and retain the capital club’s advantage.
However, shortly after the half-hour mark the Costa Rica international could do nothing to deny Mandi levelling things up, as the 26-year-old rose above Casemiro inside the six-yard box and latched on to yet another sensationally delivered cross from Joaquin before powering his header home sparking absolute bedlam behind the Real Madrid goal.
But, those images of supporters clambering over one another were nothing compared to that of four minutes later when Nacho turned the ball into his own net to give the hosts the lead.
Again, Joaquin catalysed the attack by finding young left-back Junior, who was enjoying only his second senior contest, in acres of space on the left-hand side before the 21-year-old burst into the area unchallenged and attempted to fire his shot across Navas.
The 31-year-old was able to get two hands to it, however, not for the first time this campaign, his parry was less than convincing, and the stop ended up arrowing into the path of Nacho, who could not react quick enough to evade deflecting the ball into his own unguarded goal and sending his side in a one down at the break.
After a half-time filled with the buoyant Betis diehards in fine voice, the masses were subdued within just five minutes, as Ramos, who started his career just three miles away from the Estadio Benito Villamarin with bitter rivals Sevilla, powered a trademark headed effort which kissed the underside of the crossbar before nestling in the back of Adan’s net.
Whatever orders Zidane barked at his outfit during the break following their underwhelming opening 45 minutes certainly appeared to hold an impact, as shortly after his side drew level, Gareth Bale was smartly denied twice in quick succession after the Welshman was able to overcome the opposition’s high defensive line, but during the reigning Premier Division champions’ next attack, Asensio had no such issue.
Dani Carvajal utilised his raw pace and attacking guile on the right-hand side before cleverly pulling a low cross back into the direction of the breaking Spaniard, who dispatched his attempt first time to complete the stunning 15-minute turnaround as well as mark his side’s 6000th La Liga goal – the only club in history to reach that height.
However, while in the first-half Beticos rallied when faced with adversity, the second saw no such thing, as shortly after the hour-mark, Ronaldo doubled Real Madrid’s advantage.
The five-time Ballon d’Or-winner was again afforded too much space by the hosts’ defence, and after taking possession inside the area, switched play to his right foot before dispatching an attempt which carried too much venom for the hands of Adan.
However, with just five minutes remaining, the contest was blown wide open once again as Leon tucked home from a tight angle to reduce the hosts’ deficit to a single goal.
Junior, who had been hugely impressive despite his inexperience at the top level, burst down the left wing before driving a low ball across the face of goal, wrong-footing Navas and allowing the 29-year-old substitute to add an edge to the final moments.
But, while searching for the equaliser, Tello’s lackadaisical pass offered Lucas Vasquez the opportunity to enjoy some intricate play on the edge of the area with Benzema before the Frenchman eventually slotted his effort past Adan to wrap up all three points.