Real Madrid were beaten to a 0-0 draw against Real Betis on Sunday, dropping them nine points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona.
Real Betis forward Ayoze Perez had an early drive deflected over the bar by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, while Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema had a goal disallowed when his free kick struck Antonio Rudiger’s arm on its way into the net.
At halftime, Claudio Bravo denied Benzema, then Courtois stopped Borja Iglesias with a point-blank save, before Real Madrid striker Rodrygo Goes squandered possibly the game’s finest opportunity, heading Federico Valverde’s cross wide.
- Is Real Madrid losing ground in the LaLiga championship race?
Real Madrid will fight until the end of the season because the club’s high standards demand it, but this draw extended Barcelona’s lead at the top of LaLiga to nine points, and it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Barca’s efficient, if unspectacular, team under manager Xavi squanders that lead.
Real Madrid performed well in this match. Real Betis are a strong team, and the Stadium Benito Villamarin is an imposing venue, but Madrid were the superior team, dominating possession, generating more opportunities, and winning with an anticipated goal difference of 1.21 to Betis’ 0.41. They were disappointed by some bad finishing and a strong performance in goal by veteran Claudio Bravo.
But, as Madrid sought a winner, the squad’s shortcomings were on show. Coach Carlo Ancelotti was hesitant to bring in offensive options from the bench, bringing on defenders Dani Carvajal and Nacho, as well as midfielder Dani Ceballos, before bringing on teenager Alvaro Rodriguez in the 87th minute.
A 0-0 draw here is hardly an embarrassment, but it is a cruel blow in the context of a championship fight in which Madrid cannot afford to lose any more points.
- Rodrygo nearly compensated for Madrid’s lacklustre offensive.
This was yet another game that cast doubt on Karim Benzema’s capacity to return to the out-of-this-world form that won him the Ballon d’Or last year. True, his free kick grazed Rudiger’s arm on its way into the goal, but otherwise, the 35-year-old had a disappointingly quiet night.
Rodrygo was the finest of Madrid’s attack, relishing the rare chance to play inside, behind a center-forward, with space to roam, and with Valverde protecting the right side. It’s a position that allows him to showcase his clever movement, close control, and ability to take on opponents. Just a terrible second-half miss hampered him.
Vinicius Junior looked threatening at times but distracted at others, becoming involved in disagreements with Betis players and the referee, while late replacement Alvaro hardly had time to make an impression. Madrid’s inability to score in this game bolstered their argument for a top-tier reinforcement to their assault this summer.
- Betis impresses even without its finest players and seems set to compete in the Champions League.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis are a legitimate team, and on the eve of a crucial week for the club (they play Manchester United in the Europa League at Old Trafford on Thursday), they demonstrated why they’re strong challengers to finish in the top four in LaLiga.
Despite the absence of two of their most gifted players, creative midfielders Nabil Fekir and Sergio Canales, they managed to push Madrid to their limits and might have taken all three points if goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had not made several hallmark saves.
Betis are presently fifth in LaLiga, three points behind Real Sociedad, but with the Basque side showing symptoms of fatigue, Betis have the team to go all the way, even with the dual demands of LaLiga and European football (for the time being). A top-four finish to qualify for the Champions League is in the cards.