Better from Hazard, but goal-shy Real Madrid miss out on top spot
Barcelona's defeat to Levante, coupled with Atlético's draw with Sevilla, meant the Real Madrid faithful made their way to the Bernabéu in high spirits. It was as if five points had been won before a ball had even been kicked. Not only that, but the visit of a struggling Real Betis side seemed like a home banker. However, the fans were in for another let-down; if not crushing, then certainly considerable. Madrid lacked creativity, were largely shot-shy and, though they pressed for a winner late on, were denied by good saves from Joel Robles. That's despite the Betis keeper playing the final stretch of the game with only one contact lens, having lost the other in a challenge with Ferland Mendy. He tried to put a new one in on the touchline, but lost patience, opted to soldier on - and produced his best stops thereafter.
Madrid's late push not enough after good start fades
Madrid actually started pretty well, pressing Betis high and benefiting from an Eden Hazard who finally looked in the kind of nick expected of Los Blancos' marquee summer signing. On the other flank, there were flashes of quality from Rodrygo Goes, too. In between them, Karim Benzema remained the in-form performer we've seen all season. With the out-of-position Marc Bartra deputising for William Carvalho at anchorman, Betis were finding it hard to bring the ball out. Courtesy of Sergio Canales, though, a good few quality out balls began to materialise down the left, and Madrid's encouraging start faded. Not only did their attacking play begin to drift, but it also felt like Betis were getting themselves into decent forward positions without too much fuss. The game became a more even affair.
That's pretty much how it stayed until the final stages, when, in his efforts to get his side over the approaching finish line, Rubi arguably did exactly what he shouldn't have. Rather than, for example, turning to Joaquín as an outlet capable of offering some relief with ball at feet, the Betis boss piled his players up at the back. Zinedine Zidane did the opposite, throwing more and more men into attack, with Luka Jovic and Sergio Ramos camped in the visitors' box. By that stage, Hazard was flagging and Vinicius Júnior had come on for Rodrygo. He proved more effective on the right wing than usual, but drove Zidane nuts with his sluggishness in tracking back. Madrid's last-ditch push brought about the odd scare for Betis and, as I say, a couple of saves by Robles, but the goal wouldn't come. An unexpected disappointment.
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