Karim Benzema ensured Zinedine Zidane remains unbeaten as Real Madrid coach, with the striker’s second-half equaliser earning a 1-1 draw against a stoic Real Betis at Estadio Benito Villamarin on Sunday.
Alvaro Cejudo’s exquisite volley put Betis ahead inside seven minutes but Benzema ended Madrid’s struggle to find a response when he rounded off a lovely team move with 19 minutes remaining to stave off a first defeat for Zidane and earn a point.
The crowd were boisterous from the opening minute in Andalusia and had even more to shout about when Cejudo gave them an early lead.
Madrid eventually settled but Cristiano Ronaldo – persistently booed every time he touched the ball by the home faithful – looked out of sorts and miscued his side’s best opportunity to equalise before the interval.
With Gareth Bale absent due to a calf injury, James Rodriguez missed two great chances but finally justified his place in the front three by latching on to Toni Kroos’ brilliant throughball and teeing up Benzema for the leveller.
Zidane’s side were unable to find a winner in the closing stages, with former Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan making two late saves to leave them four points adrift of La Liga leaders Barcelona, while Betis’ winless run extends to 11 games in all competitions.
The electric atmosphere in Seville was met with a fitting start as Ruben Castro beat Danilo in an impressive run down the left before cutting inside and forcing a save from Keylor Navas.
The ball looped up off the Costa Rica international and fell kindly to Cejudo, who produced a sensational volley which flew into the top-left corner with just seven minutes on the clock.
Every touch for Zidane’s side was met with jeers – Ronaldo receiving particularly harsh treatment – but they gradually gained a foothold in the game and Benzema warmed the gloves of Adan in the 17th minute.
The visitors began to enjoy more possession and Ronaldo looked sure to restore parity in the 32nd minute when a one-two with Benzema set him free on the left-hand side of the box, but the Portuguese forward uncharacteristically skewed wide.
Madrid continued to pile on the pressure and, after Pepe powered a header narrowly wide, Benzema felt he was wrongly refused a penalty when his heel was caught by Petros.
Betis managed to see out the remainder of the half without conceding, but their inability to keep hold of the ball continued to cause them problems.
Five minutes after the restart James failed to connect eight yards out and Adan did well to block Benzema’s attempt to redirect a shot from Luka Modric into the net seconds later.
Madrid, having struggled to create opportunities, equalised in the 71st minute when Benzema tapped home from James’ square pass after Kroos had split the Betis defence open, although Colombia international James could have been in an off-side position when he supplied the assist.
James, Benzema and Ronaldo were all denied by Adan – the latter two from point-blank range – in the closing stages, while Castro fired wide from 20 yards when presented with a chance to win it on the break for the hosts in stoppage time.
Key Opta stats:
-No other player has scored more goals than Karim Benzema in La Liga in 2016 (six, level with Borja Baston).
-Real Madrid have drawn an away La Liga game against Real Betis for the first time since 2004 (1-1).
-Karim Benzema has scored an average of 1.06 goals per game in La Liga this season, his best figures for Real Madrid.
-James Rodriguez has delivered more assists than any other midfielder in La Liga since start of last season (18).
-Real Madrid have conceded their fastest goal this season in all competition (six minutes and 22 seconds).
-Alvaro Cejudo is the second player to have scored from outside the box against Real Madrid in La Liga 15/16, after Nolito.
-Antonio Adan made seven saves against Real Madrid, his best tally in a La Liga home game for Real Betis.