Dani Carvajal’s sublime second-half volley secured a hard-earned 1-0 LaLiga win for Real Madrid at Real Betis.
Carvajal had not scored for Los Blancos since November 2019, but the fit-again full-back marked his return to the side with a second-half finish any striker would have been proud of.
The Spain’s international’s strike at at Benito Villamarin on Saturday was enough for Carlo Ancelotti’s side to make it two wins out three and go joint-top of the table.
Betis had their chances but Madrid, reportedly hopeful of signing Kylian Mbappe before the transfer window closes next week, raised their game in the second half and deserved all three points.
Vinicius Junior was rewarded with a start following his double in the draw against Levante last weekend and the Brazil forward was lively early on.
He burst away down the left before showing great awareness to cut the ball back for Karim Benzema, who flashed a shot just past the far post with his right foot.
Eder Militao tested Rui Silva with a volley before Thibaut Courtois palmed Nabil Fekir’s free-kick wide and Martin Montoya failed to hit the target in a promising spell for Betis.
Referee Alejandro Hernandez Hernandez dished out five yellow cards in quick succession – including one to Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini – in the closing stages of a feisty first half.
Benzema had a goal disallowed early in the second half as he had strayed offside, but the France striker set up the opening goal just after the hour mark.
Vinicius showed great pace to keep the ball in play at the byline and found Benzema, whose pinpoint cross was drilled home by the onrushing Carvajal with his right foot.
Marco Asensio came close to adding a second when he fired wide from just outside the penalty area following a surging run and Eden Hazard was denied by Silva late on. Courtois kept out a shot from Montoya right at the end as Madrid held on for maximum points.
What does it mean? Promising start for Los Blancos
Madrid had won just one of their previous five LaLiga meetings with Betis, so Ancelotti’s men knew they were in for a battle.
They passed a big test, consigning Betis to a first loss of the season and keeping a first clean sheet after conceding three last time out.
Los Blancos will head into the international break buoyed by a promising start, with their unbeaten run stretched to 21 LaLiga games, and the potential arrival of Mbappe would give them a huge lift.
Carvajal makes a big impact at both ends
It needed a moment of class to settle such a tight encounter and Carvajal provided it, bursting into the box to unleash an unstoppable volley into the far corner of the net.
He was also rock-solid with his defensive duties, gaining possession nine times as Betis showed plenty of endeavour without being able to breach the Madrid backline.
Betis forward Fekir was in the thick of the action in the first half and came close with a free-kick.
He also let himself down with an embarrassing dive in the penalty and was shown a yellow card for his theatrics.
Madrid entertain Celta Vigo in their first game after the international break on September 11, with Betis travelling to Granada the following day.
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