Sergio Ramos saves the day, again -- for the umpteenth time — as Real Madrid squeak by Real Betis 2-1 after some good, some bad, and some lucky football. Here are some notes:
Real Madrid came out of the gates exactly as they should — with purpose, conviction, a dizzying amount of movement without the ball in central chances, cutting runs, and a ball dominant performance in the final-third where they pinned Victor’s men deep. Everything about it felt right, particularly because of the concern surrounding the slow starts in general, and the focus required to capitalize on Barcelona’s loss at Riazor.
But it was perplexing, that, despite all of that — despite the goal scored after a fantastic cross from Marcelo, a run from Morata to suck in two defenders, and a tremendous finish from Ronaldo — there was left a very sour taste in Madridista’s mouths at half-time.
The first half ended 1-1, despite Real Madrid’s domination in the final third. Here’s why: just as it happened against Las Palmas, the transition on defense was filled with holes. Isco did a lot of good work defensively, but he also roamed, and Modric and Kroos weren’t on their A-game in terms of defensive coverage. The flanks, again, looked vulnerable, and it was Nacho — who you could make a case for MOTM — who saved the day on three separate counter attacks. Had it not been for him, Real Madrid would’ve been in an even more precarious place.
And then there’s the most obvious talking point: Keylor Navas. It’s almost too obvious to talk about, because there’s nothing more to be said other than the fact that his form is shaky, and nearly disastrous from a results perspective. He clumsily came of out his goal and clobbered Brasanac. He was lucky not to be sent off. Moments later, he conceded a goal by literally putting the ball into his own net. Yes, in a vacuum, the defense leading up to those moments was horrific. But neither the mistakes of the tactics nor the mistakes of Keylor excuse each other.
Obligatory insertion: Keylor came up with a massive save in the 93rd minute, just as I finish publishing this piece.
The defensive miscues where Betis countered didn’t improve a whole lot in the second half. But where there wasn’t much wrong with Real Madrid’s attack, they simply kept going at Betis’ backline before it eventually cracked. Lucas Vazquez provided some nice pace on the flanks, and when he was pulled on the break by Cristiano Piccini, Betis were reduced to 10 men. Real Madrid continued forward, and eventually their sheer force offensively overpowered anything Betis could sling the other way. Which leads us to....
OBVIOUS TALKING POINT #2.
Coming up: Player ratings, post game podcast, and match review. Submit questions to this tweet:
We're about to record a post game podcast. Any questions for us?— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) March 12, 2017