Real Madrid headed into their first game of the new 2013-14 season already under pressure, as Barcelona had just finished beating Levante 7-0 in their own opening fixture.
Carlo Ancelotti named an immediate surprise with his first La Liga team sheet by leaving out club captain and legendary goalkeeper Iker Casillas, instead going with Diego Lopez, just as his predecessor, Jose Mourinho, did.
Real Madrid's number 1 v Betis: Iker Casillas.— AS English (@English_AS) August 18, 2013
Hands up we got that one wrong time. It's not Casillas today. Diego López starts according to @realmadrid— AS English (@English_AS) August 18, 2013
Real Betis proved exciting and enterprising adversaries for Madrid, who struggled to start the match at a good tempo.
Just a quarter of an hour into the new campaign, last season's runners-up found themselves behind, with Betis striker Jorge Molina hitting the opening goal from close range.
Joan Verdu was in typically excellent form in attack and caused problems for the Real Madrid defence. He was aided by the pace and power of Cedric down the channels.
However, the lead lasted little more than 10 minutes, as Karim Benzema crashed home from the left side of the penalty area. He had already spurned a number of chances and been repeatedly caught offside beforehand, to the general annoyance of the Bernabeu crowd.
The teams went in level at the break, and the second half began a much more cagey affair, though Madrid were much improved in terms of their tempo and passing. Stephan Andersen, in goal for Betis, was tested by a series of Cristiano Ronaldo free kicks and sporadic attempts from the likes of Benzema, Luka Modric and substitute Angel Di Maria, but the only time he was beaten, the crossbar came to his aid to deny Ronaldo just a minute into the half.
Real Madrid might have been feeling rather hard done by, as they scored no less than four goals which were ruled out by the referee and his assistants—but the decisions were correct in each case. The final disallowed effort came from Alvaro Morata, who momentarily thought he had won the game with five minutes to go.
Instead, it was debutant Isco who turned out to be the hero, heading the winner with 86 minutes on the clock from Marcelo's inch-perfect cross to give Real Madrid a 2-1 win over Real Betis.
Edinson Cavani has just hit a late equaliser for PSG seconds after Isco handed Real Madrid the lead against Betis. Money can buy you class.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 18, 2013
Key Player Grades
Cristiano Ronaldo: B+
The only thing missing from Ronaldo's game was a goal. He was his usual bullish and direct self, causing problems merely with his presence, but his pace and ability to cut in with or without the ball gave Betis right-back Chica a torrid evening.
Ronaldo's shoot-on-sight policy last season got him a lot of goals and an extremely low conversion rate, and he looks set for more of the same after failing to find the net with no 11 shots against Betis—though his second-half effort was unlucky to thunder back off the crossbar.
New summer signing Isco was one of just two debutants in the Real Madrid side, and he justified his inclusion with a mature performance.
Good movement, sensible passing and plenty of work-rate had already endeared him to the crowd, but his late header was the real reward for the day. A bullet header from just inside the area gave the keeper no chance and gave his team an important two points.
Betis' best player for most of the first half, Cedric was a real danger with his fleet footwork and blinding pace. He raided both flanks at will for a spell, with Madrid failing to keep him in check. He could have added to Betis' first half tally with a little more composure.
Real Madrid are up and running with a hard-fought home win, but improvements in team shape and the tempo of their play will be required for future games.
Carlo Ancelotti's men face a trip to Granada in Andalucia, where they had so many troubles on their travels last season. Real Betis, meanwhile, will face Celta Vigo at home.
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