Real Betis beat Real Madrid 2 - 1 (Sidnei, Tello; Benzema). Here’s our quick reaction. Still to come: Player ratings, post-game podcast, post-game quotes, and a lot more.
Real Madrid could not carry the momentum from El Clasico into the Benito Villamarin tonight, where Zinedine Zidane’s men never had control of a chaotic game.
Part of that will have to do with some obvious absentees: Dani Carvajal (and any natural right back, for that matter), Isco and Fede Valverde. (Valverde was available, but on the bench.) Zidane had an entire makeshift right flank tonight, with Lucas Vazquez just ahead of Eder Militao — with Militao often tucking into a three-man backline in the team’s build-up. In midfield, he deployed Casemiro alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos — with the Brazilian acting as the team’s funnel in possession. I’m not sure when the last time that worked was, but anytime that midfield trio has been reunited without Fede Valverde, it hasn’t looked good.
Everything was laborious tonight in possession. Betis suffocated Real Madrid’s left flank in particular, where Marcelo, Vinicius, and Benzema struggled to progress the ball up the field, with a visible shortage of Isco who’s been so good at helping the team in exactly that. The team relied on crosses, with a clear game plan to get Ramos sprinting into the box in the first half to meet them. The crosses weren’t good enough. When Marcelo shifted centrally the way Carvajal did in El Clasico, the team covered well for him, but ultimately Betis closed the run. Vinicius and Lucas swapped flanks throughout the game, with Vinicius catching wind in the middle — but the passing from them, as well as Benzema, in transition, wasn’t good.
Ramos sprinting into the box to meet overhit crosses, like, not as an urgent last-minute / desperate game plan, but as your actual game plan in the first half, seems unideal.— Kiyan Sobhani (@KiyanSo) March 8, 2020
Real Betis opened the scoring through a freak Sidnei shot that wasn’t closed down in time by Casemiro. Then Real Madrid equalized through a Karim Benzema penalty just before half-time.
SIDNEI WITH A SCREAMER!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) March 8, 2020
⚪ An incredible hit from the Betis defender puts the home side 1-0 up against Real Madrid pic.twitter.com/ke6wDjSdtk
Before Sidnei’s goal, Betis also threatened on a break. Toni Kroos gave the ball away in midfield, and Fekir had a chance to score from inside the box. Courtois came up with a huge save:
Liga— beIN SPORTS (@beinsports_FR) March 8, 2020
☄️ Nabil Fekir était tout proche d'ouvrir le score face au Real Madrid
Mais Thibaut Courtois en a décidé autrement ! pic.twitter.com/DJoYnjaRAH
Those giveaways were a recurring problem in this game. No one in Real Madrid was particularly sharp with their passing. The front-three were careless in transition, and the midfielders had no real control in possession. The outlets weren’t popping up consistently, and everything looked stagnant and toothless. The team never looked like scoring, and it was Benzema who gave the ball away for Betis’ second goal:
⚪ Cristian Tello looks to have won it for Betis!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) March 8, 2020
After their El Clasico success last week, this could be a nightmare for Madrid pic.twitter.com/6ysFeiQRrS
While Real Madrid had opportunities in the second half (Ramos continued to try to get on the end of crosses, and Ferland Mendy hit the cross bar off the bench), Betis were more likely to score their third goal than conceding an equalizer.
No goal from this situation. pic.twitter.com/8u7L3CE9Il— Managing Madrid (@managingmadrid) March 8, 2020
Zidane has to be questioned here. This is a team that just doesn’t win the league. With the margin of error so small, one of the team’s most important players, Fede Valverde, was dropped while the Manchester City game isn’t until the 17th — plenty of time to rest. The scheme reverted back to a blueprint that hasn’t worked since 2018 when Cristiano Ronaldo was in the team.
Om and I will break this down in much more detail on tonight’s podcast.