|Two goals from Özil and a win over Betis|
Four days before the first leg of the semi-finals of the Champions League against Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid faced Betis at an impregnable Santiago Bernabéu, where the team are unbeaten in 15 months. There were many new faces in the Whites’ starting XI, among them the debutant Casemiro, against an opponent that before the start of the matchday were the third best team in terms of points away from home in the championship and two points away from the European places. The clash got off to a vibrant start. The visitors were the first to create a chance. A corner taken by Beñat and an impressive stretching save by Diego Lopez after the shot from Nosa in the eighth minute. Ruben Castro made the most of the rebound and knocked the ball over the line, but referee Alvarez Izquierdo ruled the goal out due to it being scored from a clear offside position. Real Madrid did not take long to react and a minute later Casemiro, who was very active, caused problems for Adrian with a volley from 25 metres.
From that moment Real Madrid started to dominate Betis, who aimed to surprise on the counter-attack. Marcelo, injured, had to leave the pitch in the fifteenth minute and was replaced by Varane. Five minutes later Cristiano Ronaldo had an opportunity to score. The header from the Portuguese after the corner taken by Modric forced a save from Adrián, who saw that the home side were coming closer and closer to scoring a goal. In fact, the off-kilter shot from Callejon in the next move went just centimetres over the visiting side’s goal.
The best moments and clearest chances came in the last minutes of the first half. The first chance fell to Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese beat Beñat in the fortieth minute with a exquisite backheel to himself and his left-footed shot from the penalty arc hit the post having beaten Adrián. The reply was made by Pabón in the forty-third minute. The cross bar prevented the visiting side from taking the lead. And just when it seemed that the teams would head into the dressing rooms on an even footing, Özil broke the deadlock in the forty-fifth minute. A great combination with Benzema and an excellent finish from the German. He kept his head in the one-on-one against the Betis goalkeeper and did not give the visiting team time to react, as they headed to the dressing rooms with the memory of the psychological goal scored by the German international still fresh in their minds.
The goal caused Betis significant damage, who played a more attacking team with the appearance of Jorge Molina, on for Nosa, after the break. Real Madrid made the most of it to put even more distance between the two teams and delighted the home crowd at the Bernabeu with one of their typically brilliant counter-attacks. A combination between Özil and Ronaldo, which ended with a deep pass by the Portuguese to Benzema in the fifty-seventh minute. The Frenchman produced a fine finish to the move.
The action did not let up and Betis halved Real Madrid’s lead in the seventy-third minute. Jorge Molina, despite Diego Lopez managing to get a hand to the ball, converted a penalty awarded for a foul committed by Nacho on Rubén Castro. More that fifteen minutes of the match remained and any result was still possible. Real Madrid were able to contain their opponent and Özil scored once again in the final minute of normal time, knocking the ball over the line after a volley by Callejon. Seventh consecutive victory at the Santiago Bernabeu and the Whites’ tenth match unbeaten in the championship. Good news before travelling to Dortmund.
Stadium: Santiago Bernabeu
Goals: 1-0, min 45: Özil. 2-0, min. 57: Benzema; 2-1, min. 73: Jorge Molina (pen); 3-1, min. 90: Özil.