Real Madrid squander chance to surpass Barcelona against shaky Betis
Zinedine Zidane’s side lacked that killer instinct on Saturday as they settled for a draw that could easily have been a win
Real Madrid have grown so used to extreme highs and lows over the past few seasons so the mixed feelings that remained after a goalless draw with Real Betis on Saturday were a strange sensation.
On one hand it was a wasted opportunity, with Zinedine Zidane’s side blowing numerous chances and failing to capitalise on Barcelona’s slip up earlier in the day to take the lead at the top of La Liga.
Seeing Karim Benzema, Eden Hazard, Sergio Ramos and co. fail to convert myriad opportunities against the leakiest defence in the division – 21 goals conceded from the first 11 games before this – was painful.
And this was the first time in either of Zidane’s reigns that Madrid have drawn 0-0 at home.
Yet the performance itself, so dominant, was another step in the right direction for a side which has looked out of shape for most of the time since Zidane left in 2018 after delivering a third consecutive Champions League title.
Real Madrid did find the net, in the first half, with Hazard scoring a very Hazard-like goal, which was ruled out for offside.
The former Chelsea winger received the ball on the left, drove into the box and fired home, but his celebrations were cut short by VAR showing he began the run in an offside position.
This was one of Hazard’s brightest displays to date, with the Belgian a menace in the first half, even if he faded after the break.
Perhaps the best chance fell to captain Sergio Ramos, whose rifled effort from close range was at Joel Robles, who managed to block the Spaniard’s effort.
Left back Ferland Mendy should have sent Madrid ahead too when he burst through on goal, but drove inches wide instead, the ball taunting Madrid fans as it rustled the side-netting.
The defender was also guilty of a dive which went unpunished, flinging himself to the floor as he broke into the area.
Mendy’s tumble nearly saw Casemiro punished too, with the Brazilian – already booked – committing a foul as Betis broke away, but the referee let the play go.
Zidane threw one Brazilian on for another, with Vinicus Junior replacing the impressive – albeit not decisive – Rodrygo, and he too missed a fine chance.
A cross from the left evaded the defence and landed straight at Vinicius’s feet, but the sublime Robles denied the young forward, again from close range.
Dani Carvajal’s drive was nearly flicked beyond Robles by Ramos in stoppage time but the goalkeeper tracked the ball well and kept it out, with a relieved Zou Feddal scrambling the ball out of play with Madrid’s skipper lurking.
Zidane will face questions about his decision to withdraw Benzema in the final stages, given the French forward has been Madrid’s best player for the past year, but overall will leave pleased with his team’s work, if not the result.
Despite lacking the killer touch, this was the kind of performance that Zidane’s 2016-17 double-winning team turned in for fun, which will be some consolation for supporters on a cold Madrid night.