Real Madrid capitalised on Barcelona’s loss against Deportivo and managed to see off Real Betis at the Bernabeu, to get back atop the summit of the La Liga
A goal in each half from Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos, followed by a superb last-minute save from Keylor Navas was enough to ensure that Real Madrid mounted a successful comeback and held off a much improved Betis side to get all three points.
This result helps Los Blancos regain their top spot in the La Liga table at the expense of Barcelona, who were beaten by Deportivo La Coruna earlier in the day. We take a look at some of the key talking points and things we learnt from Real’s 2-1 victory over the Balompie.
The Costa Rican has been strongly linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu next summer and his rumoured replacements include the likes of Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and more prominently, Manchester United’s David de Gea, who they see at the perfect heir to Iker Casillas.
It has been rumoured that the Real Madrid backroom believe that they can get a better keeper than Navas, who despite being a superb keeper in his own right, isn’t quite at the level of the aforementioned duo and now aged 30, it is unknown that if he can ever reach that level.
He was extremely lucky to escape a red card in the first half for bringing down Brasanac in the box in the first half, he has referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to thank for that. Later on the in the game, he conceded Real’s first goal of the night with a horrific blunder.
Antonio Sanabria’s 24th minute shot came straight at him and it was supposed to be a routine save for him, instead he made a complete mess of it and instead of gathering the ball in his arms, he fumbled with it on the ground and watched it cross over the line to give the visitors the lead.
He did however, make amends for it later in the game by keeping out what could have been the equaliser for Betis in the 92nd minute. Riza Durmisi’s cross was met by Sanabria’s head in the middle of the box and Navas dived to his left to make a stunning save to keep Real in the lead.
Morata’s Missed Opportunity
As expected, the Spaniard was handed a rare start against Betis last night in place of Karim Benzema. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity and failed to make any sort of significant impact through the course of the game.
He was eventually substituted in the 71st minute for Karim Benzema with 19 minutes to go. It was only his 9th Liga start this season and his 18th appearance in the competition. He has had to play second fiddle to Karim Benzema for large parts of the campaign, despite the Frenchman’s erratic form.
Los Blancos will need all their strikers to be fit and firing as they approach the most important few weeks of the season, and performances like this won’t win him any goodwill with Zinedine Zidane and will only push him closer towards an exit in the summer.
Ronaldo’s Central Evolution
The Portuguese international scored his 10 goal of 2017 in all competitions and 5th goal in his last 4 Liga games. The goal was also his first against Real Betis at the Bernabeu in the league, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ronaldo also added a new record to his name with that header. It was his 46th in the La Liga and by bringing his side level in the 41st minute, he surpassed Aritz Aduriz’ record of 45. It was a standard header, scored from the center of the box, from a whipping cross from Marcelo.
With each passing game this season, is seems as if the former Manchester United attacker is slowly transitioning into a center forward. He cuts in more and is often found to be drifting into space in the center with Marcelo coming further up forward on the flank.
This transition into a more central role will be beneficial for the now 32-year-old and may even help prolong his career. Though he still one of the best wingers in the world, he will have to be used sparingly due to his age and evolve to maintain his level of output and productivity.
The 30-year-old headed in his side’s 80th minute winner to ensure that Real got back to the top of the table. Ramos is currently having the most prolific campaign of his career, his goal was his 10th in all competitions and his 7th in the La Liga this season.
Ramos has saved his side on numerous occasions this season. His double against Malaga, his 92nd minute winner against Deportivo La Coruna and his equalizers against Villarreal and in the first Clasico of the campaign against Barcelona are just some notable examples.
Due to Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata misfiring this season, Ramos has had to be relied on more often than not, which doesn’t reflect well on Zidane’s attackers. With important games and fixtures coming up, we can expect more crucial goals from the Spaniard.
A 74th minute goal from Deportivo de La Coruña’s Álex Bergantiños was enough to ensure that Barcelona left the Estadio Riazor with no points to their name, which would subsequently result in them losing their place to the top of the table after Real Madrid’s victory.
As things stand, Real sit atop the La Liga with 62 points with Barcelona at second place with 60. However, Zinedine Zidane’s men will have an opportunity to extend that lead later on in the season to 5 points, as they still have a game in hand.
This loss essentially ends the Blaugrana’s League title chances this season and with 10 games to go this season, however, Luis Enrique’s men still have an opportunity to halt Real Madrid in their tracks and get back on top of the League before the end of the campaign.
Barcelona welcome Real Madrid to the Camp Nou on the 23rd of April in what will likely be a Clasico that will have a major say on where the League title ends up this season. Real Madrid also face Atletico Madrid prior that, and given their recent performances, it would suffice to say that the trophy can go anywhere and that this title race is far from over.