Real Madrid maintained their 100 per cent record in LaLiga as they marked their return to the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-1 win over Real Betis.
Madrid’s opening three league games had come on the road, but the reigning champions transferred that form to home turf on Saturday.
Victory did not come easy, with Madrid unusually profligate in front of goal, while Thibaut Courtois’ error allowed Betis to cancel out Vinicius Junior’s opener through Canales.
Rodrygo made the decisive breakthrough midway through the second half, however, condemning Betis to a first defeat of their LaLiga campaign.
Madrid needed just nine minutes to score their first home league goal against Betis since March 2017 when David Alaba picked out the run of Vinicius who, having beat the offside trap, lofted a fine finish over Rui Silva.
The celebratory mood was stifled eight minutes later, however. Borja Iglesias brilliantly held off his marker and laid it off for Canales, whose low finish found a way under Thibaut Courtois.
Madrid’s response was immediate, with Rodrygo finding Vinicius, but from close range the winger blazed his attempt over, while Silva pulled off a fine save to deny Aurelien Tchouameni.
Los Blancos’ dominance continued into the second half – Karim Benzema spared by the offside flag for a dismal miss a yard out – and Silva tipping a stinging Luka Modric strike onto the post.
Yet Madrid’s winner came in the 65th minute. Ancelotti turned to Federico Valverde for inspiration from the bench and, with his second touch, the Uruguay international provided just that, cutting back to Rodrygo, who benefitted from weak goalkeeping from Silva.
Rodrygo was agonisingly close to a second when his cute volley clipped the crossbar, though Madrid’s failure to add a third did not ultimately prove costly.
What does it mean? Madrid have just too much in reserve
Madrid have such a wealth of depth available to them that Ancelotti was able to bench Valverde and Toni Kroos, among others, for Saturday’s match. Yet Valverde’s impact when he did come on was instant, and proof of the gap between Madrid (and possibly Barcelona following their spending spree) and the best of the rest in Spain.
This was Madrid’s first win over Betis at home in LaLiga since 2017, a run of five games, while they have gone onto win the title on five of the last seven occasions they have won their first four league games (1961-62, 1962-63, 1968-69, 1987-88 and 2016-17).
FINAL #RealMadridRealBetis 2-1
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) September 3, 2022
Vini on fire
Vinicius’ goal was the perfect demonstration of just what makes the 22-year-old so, so good. His run was timed to perfection, his control exquisite and his finish delightfully composed.
He has been involved in four goals in his last two LaLiga games (three goals, one assist) – only Benzema (21) and Iago Aspas (17) have more goal involvements than the winger in LaLiga in 2022 (16 – nine goals, seven assists).
Goalkeeper’s union sticks together…
Canales’ equaliser came from a shot with an expected goals (xG) value of only 0.07 – essentially, there was less than one per cent chance that his strike should have resulted in a goal, yet Courtois made a mess of his attempted save.
Perhaps in solidarity with his Madrid counterpart, Silva was not to be outdone. The former Granada goalkeeper had made a fine save to deny Tchouameni in the first half but was to blame for Rodrygo’s winner. In his defence, that attempt did have a far greater xG (0.39), but it was still poor goalkeeping as he let the ball slide under his hand.
Both sides are in European action next week. Madrid face Celtic in the Champions League, while Betis face HJK in the Europa League.
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