Real Madrid clinched their first win of the new La Liga season by beating Real Betis 3-2 away from home, in a thrilling contest full of action and drama.
Zinedine Zidane mentioned the possibility of Luka Jovic and Karim Benzema playing as a front two together, and that’s exactly how the Frenchman opted for this tough away fixture in Seville. The visitors got off to a flying start, and Benzema had the ball in the back of the net in the first minute, though he was flagged offside. Minutes later, Ferland Mendy was in an advanced position again, but the French left-back could only pull his shot wide after cutting back onto his right foot.
Straight down the other end, former Madrid midfielder Sergio Canales whipped in a cross for Antonio Sanabria who forced Thibaut Courtois into an extremely difficult save from close range.
The goal was coming after such an end-to-end opening period, and it was the defending champions who struck. Benzema floated out towards the right, and his trickery got himself past Alexandre Moreno, before crossing to Fede Valverde at the near post who finished like a forward. Less than 60 seconds after the goal, Madrid were in again. Somehow, Sergio Ramos was in a number nine slot, and Benzema’s cross to Jovic was nicely cushioned for Ramos by the Serbian, but the captain’s shot took a slight deflection off Aïssa Mandi.
Nabil Fekir passed a late fitness test to feature from the start, and he fired wide as the hosts looked for a route back into the contest. And then they had two chances in quick succession, taking both, unlike Madrid. Mandi’s touch was crucial to deny Ramos doubling Madrid’s lead, but down the other end, another Canales cross, was this time headed in by Mandi.
A few minutes later, Toni Kroos gave the ball away, allowing William Carvalho to slot in past Courtois at the near post, a shot which upon reflection, the Belgian keeper will be disappointed to concede against.
After the break, Madrid came out differently. Luka Modric had replaced an injured Kroos before the half-time whistle, and after it, Martin Ødegaard came off for Isco. And it made a huge difference. Straight away, Dani Carvajal and Valverde combined, and it was Carvajal’s cross which was meant for Benzema at the far post, instead, Emerson’s toe looped it over the line for the equaliser.
The hosts didn’t really recover from that, and Madrid began to dominate after Zidane’s half-time and formational tinkering. Benzema smashed the underside of the bar with the ball crossing the line, though he was offside initially, and then Benzema fed Jovic on the counter attack, which was the moment that changed the game.
Jovic was fouled at the edge of the box by Emerson, and after consulting VAR, the referee sent the Brazilian off, meaning Madrid would play with an extra man for the final period, chasing the winner. And it nearly arrived soon after the sending off. With 20 minutes to play, Valverde smashed in a low-cross across the face of goal from the right, only for Benzema to miss an empty net from point blank range.
A rare start for Jovic came to an end, and he was replaced by Borja Mayoral, who could be soon on his way to Roma on a permanent transfer. But it was Mayoral who created the chance for the eventual winner. He won his battle with Marc Bartra, who VAR proved handled the ball in the box in his attempts to stop Mayoral from shooting. Penalty given, penalty scored with a cheeky panenka by Ramos.
There was even three late chances for Madrid to get further goals. Isco’s shot was heroically kept out by Betis goalkeeper Joel Robles, before Valverde decided not to shoot when he was through one-on-one with Robles. And with the final kick of the game, Benzema, who could have had four on the night, dragged his final attempt frustratingly wide. But nevertheless, a huge win for the champions, who have negotiated two of the toughest away stadiums with four points, and players still to return to fitness.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who: Real Valladolid
When: Wednesday 30th September @ 21:30 (CEST)
Where: Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano