Sunday's LaLiga action was brought to a close at the Villamarín, where Real Madrid needed a late Dani Ceballos free-kick to secure maximum points. The former Betis player was only on the pitch for about 15 minutes receiving a hail of abuse from the local fans as he entered the fray. It was a surprising end to a game that Solari's side barely deserved to win, finding themselves on the ropes for large periods of the second half and playing with a five-man defense. Casemiro and Valverde were employed in midfield with just Modric, Benzema and Vinicius offering an attacking thrust. Despite the defensively minded formation, a fine strike from Luka Modric saw the visitors ahead at the break with the team defending the lead well with Vinicius and Benzema leading the counter-attacks.
Questions could be raised about the managers tactics but given the plague of injuries the squad is suffering along with the ongoing issue of not playing Isco, Solari's game-plan could be vindicated. Another blow was dealt to the Bernabeu outfit just before the interval as Benzema was forced out of the action with a broken finger. Real Madrid Castilla's Cristo was the French striker's replacement as Madrid sat even deeper in the second period and limited themselves to sporadic counters as Betis dominated possession with Joaquín and Canales pulling the strings for the men in green and white whilst Isco and Ceballos watched on from the bench. Betis finally saw their domination pay-off as Canales poked home and VAR eventually ruled the goal as legitimate.
Up to this point, the second half display from Real Madrid was atrocious. Solari shuffled his pack bringing on Ceballos for Reguilón and later Brahim for Valverde trying even harder to impose his feelings about Isco in his squad. Madrid failed to improve and only a marauding gallop from Casemiro who was upended on the edge of the box for a free-kick offered a glimmer for the visiting side. Up stepped Ceballos as a wall of whistles rung out from the Betis fans at their former hero. Pau opted to man his right post and the Madrid player slotted the ball adeptly into the other corner. A bitter pill for the home fans and relief for Real Madrid. It could be said that Solari's men secured the win last night applying a "small team" mentality, sitting deep and lacking ambition. It would appear that a tilt at the LaLiga title is a lost cause and I hope that the mentality applied in the Champions League is radically different.