The euphoria from the midweek victory would need to be quickly forgotten as focus returned to La Liga. Quique Setein’s Betis would be the opposition, the same team that came to the Bernabeu in September and snatched all three points. Zidane brought in a few fresh faces into the eleven. Kovacic took the place of the injured Toni Kroos and the three substitutes that changed the game against PSG earned the start at the Benito Villamarin: Bale, Asensio, and Lucas Vazquez. It would be an up and down game, where Madrid’s second half was much improved and turned a 2-1 loss into a 5-3 victory. Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez proved to be the two top performers on the night. Asensio had two goals while Vazquez had two assists.
Keylor Navas—7: World class save from Joaquin’s free kick midway through the first half, but would be exposed on the second goal where he arguably could have done more. Overall, a solid performance but will be desperate to get a consecutive round of matches together with clean sheets.
Dani Carvajal—6.5: Joaquin had his way playing between Dani and Nacho in the first half. He would set up both goals and both occasions Carvajal should have put the captain under more pressure. The effort is always there with Dani, but tonight he was overwhelmed with Betis 3-5-2 formation with Both Joaquin and Junior giving him headaches on which player to pick up. The second half would bring a complete turnaround in form. Dani locked down the right side and produced some magic to help put Madrid back into the lead bamboozling four Betis players as he laid the ball on a platter for Marco Asensio to tuck home.
What an assist by Carvajal and cool finish by Asensio— a (@oatcr7_) February 18, 2018
Nacho—6: Joaquin and Loren were a handful for both Ramos and Nacho. Joaquin specifically played in the space between the right full back and right center back. Was credited for an own goal on Betis’ second and didn’t have the proper body position to clear the ball off the line. Like the rest of the team, improved in the second half and put in some well timed tackles.
Sergio Ramos—7: Failed to help the team weather the stoem in the first half when Betis grew in confidence and played some brilliant football. The team desperately needed an early second half equalizer and Ramos responded to the call. Lucas found him off a corner kick and Ramos buried the header into the back of the net.
Marcelo—7.5: Played well for his brief 20 minute cameo. Looked like he felt a slight twinge in his hamstring. Zidane did not hesitate and the pulled the Brazilian for Theo. Marcelo’s exit soon led to Betis’ domination in the first half.
Casemiro—6: Another poor performance from the Brazilian, but he improved in the second half. He has been out of form for most of the season and his performance tonight won’t do much to change that narrative. Was caught on the ball on numerous occasions and failed to be an outlet for Kovacic when pushing through the midfield. On the Beticos first goal, Mandi outmuscled Casmeiro in their aerial duel and left Keylor flailing. He would produce a wonderful assits for Ronaldo on the fourth goal with a lovely scoop pass over the back four and straight to Ronnie’s feet.
Mateo Kovacic—6.5: Not a poor game from the Croatian, but equally not a world-beating performance. Struggled to find options and was overrun a bit in the first half. In the second half, he and Casemiro tighten their midfield lines and did a better job in controlling the tempo of the match.
Lucas Vazquez—8.5: Was given corner kick duties on the right side with no Isco, Kroos, or Modric involved. He met Ramos with a curling corner on two occasions and the second was piled home, giving Madrid the equalizer. As always, Lucas ran tirelessly and worked hard to close down the opposition. Not often noted, Lucas picks his passes well when crossing, he does not rush the decision. He is a player in form and producing the final ball adding two more assists to his season stats tonight.
Marco Asensio—9: An opportunity to start and Marco did not disappoint. Notched two goals and took them both well. His first goal was poacher-like as he followed the rebound off of a Cristiano shot and directed his header towards the bottom corner. The second was a perfect one-time finish with that sweet left foot of his after Dani Carvjal beat nearly half the Betis team down the right flank.
Gareth Bale—6: Very quiet first half, it is obvious that Bale is not completely comfortable in the striker position. Improved slightly in the second half-- made two darting runs in behind the Betis’ backline who could not keep up with the Welshman, but on both occasions Adan was able to block his shots.
Cristiano Ronaldo—7.5: Cristiano’s fine goal-scoring form continued, as he was able to notch his 12th La Liga goal this season. The Portuguese connected well with his teammates and it was his shot that could only be parried for the first goal that Asensio tucked home. Another confidence boosting performance for Cristiano--it is now 10 goals scored in his last 6 matches.
Theo—6.5: Was rushed on to the field in the 25th minute as Marcelo was taken out with a muscle injury. Madrid was leading when Theo entered, but gave up two goals by the time halftime arrived. With his nerves settled and the team’s high press back in order, Theo shined in the second half and did not put a foot wrong. His pace was on show as he bombed down the left flank on multiple occasions.
Isco—6: Isco was brought on to reinforce the midfield and secure the win. Had some nice touches and retained possession well.
Karim Benzema--7: Substituted in the 88th minute with maybe five total minutes of game time, but would not be denied an opportunity to score at his favorite stadium. Latched on to the end of a Lucas Vazquez pass and buried the ball in the corner of the net with his first touch.
Zinedine Zidane—6: The final twenty minutes of the first half looked like Zidane had got it all wrong again. The 4-4-2 was playing right into Setien’s plans and the team was struggling to even put a couple passes together. It must have been some team talk at half, as Madrid came out hungry and pressing. They would convert a 2-1 loss to a 5-3 win. The decision to play Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez paid dividends, as they were both crucial and decisive factors in leading Madrid to victory.
MOTM: Marco Asensio