Three consecutive league draws coupled with an away draw to Dortmund in the Champions League had left Zidane facing his first ‘crisis’ at the helm – with the Spanish media adding fuel to fire in pursuit of their next victim on the Madrid managerial guillotine. Zizou and his players, however, had other ideas as they steamrolled Real Betis 6-1 at the Benito Villamarín in arguably their most cohesive performance of the season.
Goals haven’t been flowing freely for Los Blancos in recent times, which is particularly worrying given the firepower they possess within the squad – but they had no such troubles on the night as five different players managed to find the net in emphatic fashion. Moreover, the midfield three of Kroos, Kovacic, and Isco were able stamp their authority on proceedings and control the game for extended periods; the first time they’ve been able to do so convincingly in Casemiro’s absence.
An energetic start from Madrid clearly unsettled their opposition, and Betis were made to pay for their jitteriness as Raphael Varane scored a towering header in the 4th minute to give his side the lead. The Verderones began to grow into the game after conceding the early goal, but a careless mistake in midfield in the 31st minute allowed Kroos to feed in Karim Benzema for Real’s second. This was followed shortly after by a looping strike by Marcelo in the 39th minute as the Brazilian capitalized on a fortuitous deflection in the Betis box. Zidane’s men added their fourth, and arguably the best of the night, right before the first-half whistle as a lightning-fast counter-attack ended with Isco netting into an empty net.
Betis came out fighting at the start of the second-half, creating multiple opportunities against a shoddy Madrid defense and pulling one back in the 55th minute through Alvaro Cejudo. However, their overall lack of composure in front of goal quashed any hope of a comeback as Real managed to settle into the game again and add to their lead in the 62nd minute through a curling strike from Isco. The game’s final goal came courtesy of Ronaldo in the 78th minute as the Portuguese legend drove into the box and thumped an effort past ex-teammate Antonio Adan. CR7 looked relieved to finally get his name on the score-sheet after a frustrating evening had seen him squander numerous chances.
Zidane looked a happy man at the final whistle as his team’s confident display did enough to dispel any murmurs of trouble in the Madrid camp and set them firmly back on track for their title charge. It must also be noted that Real remain undefeated this season despite their string of draws, and will continue to merit praise until that streak is put to an end. This victory could also prove to be a much-needed confidence boost for the players, who will look to replicate such results on a regular basis to silence their critics.