Cristiano Ronaldo’s return to league action was ruined on Wednesday night, as Real Betis shocked the champions with a last-gasp winner.
Ronaldo, Marcelo and Toni Kroos all came back into Zinedine Zidane’s starting eleven, with the former starting up front with Gareth Bale as Los Blancos deployed a 4-3-1-2 formation. Isco occupied the hole behind the strikers as Marco Asensio and Borja Mayoral dropped to the bench.
It was the visitors that started the brighter at the Santiago Bernabeu and they could have gone one up if it hadn’t been for Dani Carvajal scrambling back to clear Antonio Sanabria’s shot off the line. It was an early warning sign for Madrid and one that proved that Betis weren’t to be taken lightly.
Zidane’s men did come into the game after the early scare, with Luka Modric twice coming close to breaking the deadlock. Firstly, the Croatian midfielder carried the ball through a parting sea of Betis defenders to find himself entering the penalty area. With no option but to shoot, Modric sheepishly fired the ball into ex-Madrid keeper Antonio Adan.
The second opportunity for the midfielder, who was the star of the opening 45 minutes, came from the right-hand side, as Dani Carvajal took advantage of space left by Betis’ Cristian Tello. The right-back whipped a ball to the penalty spot which was met by Modric who guided the ball just over the crossbar.
The lack of first-half action was exemplified by the number of times that the Spanish broadcasters replayed the chance…
every single touch and movement Modric does is incredible and man just appreciate this living legend
— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) September 20, 2017
The last two opportunities of the half fell to either side, as both goalkeepers were called into action. Betis almost stunned the crowd into silence when Fabian Ruiz picked up a loose Carvajal throw-in before lashing the ball towards the top corner. Fortunately for the home side, Keylor Navas was on hand to pull out an incredible reflex save.
It was Modric again who crafted Madrid’s final chance of the half, as he threaded a ball through to Isco whose low drive was met quickly by the diving Adan. That was the last main action of a first-half that proved frustrating for Ronaldo and co. The returning Portuguese star registered seven shots and only eight passes in the opening 45 minutes.
It was Ronaldo who fluffed his lines within five minutes of the restart, skying a perfectly driven Gareth Bale cross with an open goal to aim for. Whilst it was good to see the two stars linking up, Ronaldo should have done better.
As the half went on, the chances kept coming. Carvajal hit the post, Kroos hit a venomous long-ranger inches wide and Bale nearly scored the goal of his life, when he backheeled a cross towards the far end of the goal. Unfortunately for the Welshman, Adan was there again to tip the effort against the post.
Asensio and Mayoral were introduced into the bubbling cauldron of the Bernabeu. The pitch was quickly becoming a war zone, as Madrid’s frustrations were tested by the physical nature of Betis’ defending. Every set-piece brought cries of foul play by Ronaldo and Ramos, yet the referee stood firm and nothing was given.
As the game entered stoppage time, Betis thought they’d snatched a famous win. With half of Madrid’s defence up in attack, the visitors found themselves attacking in numbers and Sanabria’s tap-in sparked brief jubilation… until the linesman’s flag flew into the air.
With two of the five stoppage time minutes remaining, a much-expected game finally arrived. However, as the ball was headed emphatically into the net, it was the men in green that were jubilant. Yet another open counter-attack resulted in a cross landing on the forehead of the unmarked Sanabria, who sealed a famous win for Betis at the Bernabeu.
It was Madrid’s first home defeat to a team other than Barcelona or Atletico Madrid in over five years and ensured that Zidane’s patchy start to the season continued. Los Blancos now find themselves seven points behind Barcelona after three home games without a win.
The last time Real Madrid failed to score was 26 April 2016, in a 0-0 draw away to Manchester City.
— Scott Saunders (@_scottsaunders) September 20, 2017
For Betis, it was a phenomenal result and they can be complimented for playing a classy brand of football whilst maintaining their defensive steel at the back. The ex-Madrid keeper Adan was phenomenal, making seven saves, and the underdogs kept their cool to exploit Madrid’s blasé attempts at grabbing a winner of their own.
What next for Madrid? They travel to Alaves next Saturday before heading to Germany to contest a tough group stage tie with Borussia Dortmund. With their home for the way it is, Zidane and co. will be happy to see the back of the Bernabeu, as Los Blancos look to salvage their season.