Rafael Benitez’s Real Madrid rediscovered their attacking prowess in a 5-0 victory over Real Betis on Saturday – James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all on target at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Having been thwarted by Sporting Gijon last time out in a 0-0 draw, Benitez’s men sent out a message on their first La Liga game back in the capital as Bale quietened his critics and Benzema made a goalscoring return from a thigh injury.
Bale gave Madrid the ideal start when he headed home with barely two minutes played, having been on the receiving end of boos from sections of the Bernabeu faithful in recent months.
He converted Rodriguez’s precise delivery before the Colombian curled home a wonderful free-kick to double the advantage.
Benzema was the beneficiary of neat interplay between the pair early in the second half, with Rodriguez then reiterating his claim for a starting berth with an acrobatic second.
Despite having chances, Cristiano Ronaldo failed to open his account for the season, while Ruben Castro’s missed penalty shortly after the hour summed up a fruitless evening for Pepe Mel’s men, who conceded again late on when Bale scored his second of the night to give Benitez an emphatic first competitive win in charge.
Bale – who again occupied the number 10 position, this time behind Benzema – nodded the hosts in front after just a minute.
The Welshman glanced in Rodriguez’s inch-perfect cross to delight the Bernabeu crowd, and it should have been two soon after, but Benzema saw an effort saved by Antonio Adan.
Clearly having found their groove, Real saw Ronaldo threaten with a fierce free-kick before Danilo whistled a shot into the side-netting amid early Madrid pressure.
The home side endured a penalty scare when Marcelo slid in to deny Ruben Castro on the left-hand side as Betis began to grow into the game.
However, Benitez’s men composed themselves after the half-hour mark – Ronaldo and Marcelo threatening down the left – prior to Rodriguez’s stunning free-kick.
The foul on Ronaldo seemed soft, but Rodriguez produced a sublime effort as he curled in from the right and past Adan to make the most of his start ahead of Isco.
At the other end, last-ditch goalkeeping from Keylor Navas denied Castro a tap-in.
Having each been on target in the first half, Bale and Rodriguez combined to provide Benzema for the third.
Following slick passing between the pair, Bale crossed for an unmarked Benzema to head home on his return from injury before Rodriguez punished more hapless Betis defending.
Having twice failed to clear from inside their own box, Toni Kroos’ shot from the edge of the area found Rodriguez, who set himself up for a wonderful overhead kick.
Betis were handed an opportunity reduce the deficit when Raphael Varane bundled over Jorge Molina in the area, but Navas again proved his worth with a smart save to deny Castro a consolation.
Sergio Ramos’ overhead kick struck Adan’s right-hand post late on before Bale added a fifth with an impressive long-range drive that diverted in off the upright.
His second added further gloss to a convincing scoreline, suggesting a growing cohesion within Benitez’s new 4-2-3-1 system.