Real Madrid vs. Real Betis: Score and Reaction from 2015 La Liga MatchAugust 29, 2015
James Rodriguez stole the show as Real Madrid recorded their first win of the 2015-16 La Liga season, crushing Real Betis 5-0 at home.
The Colombia international first assisted Gareth Bale's opener before producing two stunning goals himself, a fantastic free-kick and an even better overhead kick. Karim Benzema also got on the scoresheet, and Bale added a second goal late for the hosts, who looked almost flawless in attack.
Betis had their chances to score and missed a penalty in the second half, and Real Madrid's defence remains a work in progress. But overall, Saturday's win was a very solid result and a much-improved performance compared to last week's scoreless draw against Sporting Gijon.
Manager Rafa Benitez opted to start Bale in a central role and push Rodriguez out wide, while talented midfielder Dani Ceballos was tasked with leading the lines for Real Betis, per ESPN.com's Dermot Corrigan:
Within minutes, it became clear that Benitez had made the right decision. Los Blancos started the match in excellent form, and it took just 94 seconds before the first goal was scored. Rodriguez lofted a beautiful ball into the box, and Bale timed his run to perfection, heading the ball past Antonio Adan.
Per Corrigan, Benitez couldn't have asked for a better start, and he will be particularly happy it was Bale who did the scoring:
Los Blancos continued pushing forward, and minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo nearly doubled their lead. His free-kick from 30 yards out was a little too close to Adan, who managed to push the ball away.
Ronaldo then teed up Benzema beautifully, but the Frenchman's header flew over the bar. Toni Kroos had a great shooting chance as well, but he too failed to hit the target.
The hosts appeared to be in control of the match, but defensively, they looked a bit shaky. Marcelo gave the ball away on several occasions and could have been called for a penalty after an incident with Ruben Castro. While there was no contact, the case could be made that Marcelo committed an obstruction foul, as detailed by Corrigan:
Juan Manuel Vargas should have played a better ball into the box as well, and the hosts were starting to play with fire. But near the end of the first half, Los Blancos increased the pace and soon found the goal once again.
First, Ronaldo demanded a penalty after some―light―contact in the box, but when the official awarded a free-kick minutes later, Rodriguez stepped up and produced a stunning strike that clipped the inside of the post before going in.
The Colombia international shot the ball from a tight angle—and Adan probably didn't expect him to fire it straight at goal—but it hardly mattered, as Rodriguez hit the ball perfectly. BBC Sport was in awe:
Real Madrid TV's Phil Kitromilides gave his take:
Castro should have reduced the gap to a single goal just before half-time after some comical defending from Real Madrid, but the forward inexplicably refused to shoot the ball in time, allowing Keylor Navas to intervene.
Similar to the start of the match, Los Blancos came out with incredible intensity after half-time, and it once again produced an early goal. Benzema finished off a sensational team move, which culminated with Bale placing a stunning cross directly on the Frenchman's head.
Josimar Fotballblad's Jonas Giaever was impressed:
Betis' resolve broke completely after that goal, leading Rodriguez to score an even better goal than his first. Kroos fired a hard pass into the box, the Colombian sent it into the sky with a single touch, and what followed was one of the best overhead kicks of the young season.
Bleacher Report UK was among the many praising the young forward:
Ronaldo should have added a fifth after a delightful pass from substitute Isco, but Adan came off his line early and produced a fine stop. On the other side of the pitch, Navas did the same, stopping a penalty to his left. Raphael Varane had taken out Jorge Molina Vidal, and while the contact was light, it didn't matter, as Navas denied the unfortunate Castro anyway.
Luka Modric appeared to injure his ankle in the first half and was finally taken off the pitch late in the second, allowing new signing Mateo Kovacic to make his Bernabeu debut. Ramos tried to emulate Rodriguez with an overhead kick of his own and came agonisingly close, hitting the upright.
It wasn't Ronaldo's night, highlighted by another disappointing drive straight at Adan. The Portuguese star is searching for his best form early in the season, and looking at how some of his team-mates are playing, Madrid will be dangerous once he does.
The pace of the match dropped in the final minutes, but there was still time for Bale to add a fifth goal. Casemiro freed him up with a lovely back heel, and the Welshman embarked on a surging run before unleashing a shot that clipped the inside of the post and went in.
A big win was what Real needed after last week's disappointing result, as Benitez's men appear to be finding their form early in the season. Defensively, questions remain, but Los Blancos' embarrassment of riches in attack means they'll be able to outscore the majority of teams they'll face this season.
Bale and Rodriguez both had great performances, which should do wonders for their confidence ahead of next week's trip to Catalunya, where Los Blancos will face Espanyol.
Following his excellent performance, Bale took to Twitter to express his delight at returning to the Bernabeu:
Speaking to Tiempo de Juego (h/t Corrigan), Benzema refused to address any questions regarding his future:
Benitez was very happy with what he saw from the squad, via AS English: