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Real Betis vs. Real Madrid: 7 Talking Points from Huge La Liga Upset

Michael CernaCorrespondent INovember 24, 2012

Real Betis vs. Real Madrid: 7 Talking Points from Huge La Liga Upset

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    Déjà vu, anyone? We now know where Madrid's kryptonite is—Andalusia.

    Tell me if you've heard this one before. Real Madrid traveled to Seville, fired off 18 shots, had over 60 percent possession...and lost without scoring a goal.

    For the second time this season, Jose Mourinho's men misfired when surrounded by a hostile crown in the capital of Andalusia.

    Madrid were out-played and failed to score against a team that allowed five goals just last weekend.

    The league title is nowhere near decided in November, but if Barcelona can build an 11-point gap before we reach December, it will be very hard for Los Merengues to feel they are still in the hunt.

    Let's review seven lessons learned from Real Betis' 1-0 win over Real Madrid.

     

    Note: All stats courtesy of WhoScored.com.

Madrid Far Too Wasteful

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    Let's just look at the basic statistics for a minute: Sixty-nine percent possession, 18 shots, eight on goal and 80 percent pass completion.

    Usually when any team has those numbers after 90 minutes, they've won three points. When it's an elite team like Real Madrid, usually it's a blowout.

    That wasn't the case Saturday, however. This was, in part, because Los Merengues were extremely wasteful in front of the goal.

    The defending champs may have managed 18 shots, but less than half were on target. Most importantly, none led to goals—aside from two that were called off and not taken into account.

    That just won't cut it against a first division Spanish club. Betis aren't exactly Barcelona, but they've hovered around the top six all season.

Mourinho Partially to Blame

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    With 25 matches left to play, the title race is not over by a long shot—even if Barcelona extends their lead over Madrid to 11 points tomorrow.

    There isn't much more room for error with Madrid, though. This loss to Betis puts them on the verge of being out of the hunt.

    While most of the team was poor against Madrid, their only special coach has to take some blame as well.

    Los Merengues have now lost as many matches this season—less than a third of the way in—than they did all of last term.

    They lost their third away match of the campaign, second in Seville. Madrid will now enter December in third place for the first time in the Jose Mourinho era.

    If Roman Abramovich were in charge, Jose Mourinho would probably be getting sacked tomorrow.

     

    Stubborn Mourinho

    Last season the only common major critique against the Portuguese coach was that he did a very poor job of rotating his players, and it almost cost his team the title in the second half.

    This season has not been very different, and the Betis match gave us more proof of how Mourinho needs to do a better job of resting his key players.

    Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria were just awful and rightfully subbed at the half. Rest was not the reason for Ozil—who is having his worst season in Spain so far—but it is for Di Maria.

    There is just no reason the out-of-form winger should have started this match after playing a full match mid-week with a healthy Kaka on the bench.

     

    Poor rotation continues

    Cristiano Ronaldo, Iker Casillas and Pepe were all also in poor condition and two should have been more rested.

    Pepe played his third full match in seven days while Raphael Varane hasn't started since November 6th. Ronaldo was always going to start but should have been subbed off against Athletic Bilbao last weekend, even at the half with a three-goal lead in hand.

    Fatigue clearly played a part in Madrid's loss and that comes down to one person—the coach.

    If Manuel Pellegrini can find a way to rest a smaller, far less talented Malaga squad, Mourinho just has to do better with so many world class players at his disposal.

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Adrian

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    In last week's Sevilla Derby, Betis were shell-shocked as Los Rojiblancos put up five goals, four in the first half, and completely dominated their rivals.

    While Beticos' keeper Adrian was not the only reason for this, he was a major cause. The 25-year-old was just awful.

    Unfortunately for Madrid, that was not the same Adrian who showed up tonight.

    The former academy star put on a man of the match performance as he saved eight shots, three that were world class.

    If the same keeper that allowed Sevilla to scored five goals had shown up against Madrid, the champions would have scored about four goals themselves.

    While Betis fans will not have gained tremendous trust in their streaky keeper going forward, they have to be thankful that the 'good' Adrian showed up against Madrid.

Xabi Alonso Is Madrid's Deadliest Free Kick Taker

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    A lot of people have been pretty hard on Cristiano Ronaldo for not scoring from a free kick in months.

    I am of the opinion that the Portuguese have always been a tad overrated in this area, but his numbers speak for him.

    CR7 is still a great taker, but excels in certain areas while not being elite from most angles where any sort of finesse is needed.

     

    It is a good thing Madrid's long-distance taker is consistent

    Not only is Xabi Alonso consistent, he is consistently the most dangerous free kick taker on the team.

    The midfielder does not shoot for goal, but he uses the great strength and height advantage Madrid possesses to give his team countless chances to score.

    Pepe may be shockingly ineffective in the air defensively at times, but Alonso's incredible accuracy from set pieces makes him extremely dangerous on goal.

    The Betis match reminded us of just how deadly Alonso is with dead balls as he turned Madrid's countless fouls won in to goal-scoring opportunities.

    Ronaldo had one great effort near the end, but Xabi Alonso's free kicks were the most dangerous thing Madrid did all night.

Betis' Double Pivot Better Than Madrid's

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    Betis' defensive midfield pairing of roommates and great friends Beñat and Jose Cañas helps them form a great double pivot in Sevilla, one of the best in the league even. As good as they are, they are not quite on the level of any pairing Jose Mourinho can use.

    In this match, however, they were the best pair on the pitch and Betis' best outfield players.

    Beñat scored the opening goal and had the second-most shots on the team. He actually had more shots than Karim Benzema did—a striker.

    His partner was just as impressive. While Beñat did well directing play immediately off the counter, his roommate was immense as the holding pivot.

    Cañas worked hard all night, completely neutralizing Ozil and making Kaka look like a shadow of his former Ballon d'Or-winning self.

    While both players were fantastic individually, the pairing worked perfectly, with Cañas allowing Beñat to roam and preventing Madrid from overwhelming the back line with too much uncontested time on the ball.

Refs Hurt Madrid, but Didn't Cost Them

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    Very rarely does a team like Real Madrid have a legitimate right to say the ref might have cost them a point.

    Los Merengues and Barcelona notoriously get countless calls in their favor—many that earn them points in close matches. Typically, big teams in most leagues are usually on the receiving end of bad calls.

    In this match, however, the defending champs can definitely say the ref influenced the result in an unfavorable way for them.

     

    Examples

    The biggest call that hurt the champs was a disallowed goal early in the second half.

    Karim Benzema had already had one goal disallowed after accurately being ruled offside, but the second looked to be a bad call that should have allowed the goal to stand.

    Madrid also looked to have a penalty in the last play of the game, but it would have been for a handball that bounced around and it would have been a pretty harsh call.

    Just minutes before the non-call in Betis' box, Cañas was a bit lucky to avoid a second yellow card with three minutes to play.

     

    No excuses

    In the end, the linesman missed one big call (Benzema's second 'goal') and a few others were contentious. But Madrid can not at all blame the referee.

    First off, there were bad calls against both teams. For example, Ruben Castro was also wrongly ruled offside when he would have been left alone with Casillas.

    Secondly, the team as a whole were pretty poor. Despite managing twice as many shots and more than twice the possession, Madrid couldn't score a single goal.

    If Madrid had won off of a late penalty—to use an example—it would have been a harsh, even unfair result for Pepe Mel's team.

    The ref has to be held accountable for numerous bad calls, but Madrid's overall poor play is more to blame than the ref is.

La Liga Far from Boring

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    Casual fans often call La Liga boring. They see the two best teams in football finish far ahead of the competition and say the entire league isn't exciting because of that.

    While the imbalance is certainly far too big and does show the great financial gap between the big two and everyone else, it does not mean the entire league is boring.

    La Liga is much more than the title race and Betis' upset win over the defending champs proved that point.

     

    The 'rest' of Spain

    Last week Real Betis got beat by La Liga's 10-placed team by five goals. They were completely dominated from the first whistle.

    This week they knocked off the defending champions of Spain and may finish the week level on points with a Champions League contender.

    Los Merengues are now in danger of falling 11 points behind Barcelona in the title race, but the Catalans are not the only team looking at Madrid in the rear-view mirror.

    Atletico Madrid could also finish the weekend with an eight-point lead over the cross-town rivals. If that happens, it would set up one of the biggest derbies in recent memory.

    Next weekend is this season's first Madrid Derby and could see Atleti move 11 points clear of Madrid going into December—this goes without even mentioning the fact that last year's third-placed team—a team that almost beat Bayern Munich on Wednesday—was thoroughly out-played by Malaga by a score of 4-0 just before Betis' win.

     

    Boring?

    People can criticize La Liga for being a two-horse league all they want, but Spain's third-place team just knocked the best England has to offer out of the Champions League.

    Real Madrid and Barcelona would dominate most teams in Europe, not just Spain.

    While the title race is predictable—as is England's and Germany's—the league as a whole is extremely competitive and exciting to watch. Of course, one would actually have to watch to know that.

    Call the Primera Division whatever you want, but no one can objectively call it boring. Real Betis just proved that again.

     

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