Real Madrid provided the perfect response in wake of the recent criticism – following a 0-0 draw against Sporting Gijon – by managing a 5-0 thrashing of Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. New manager Rafa Benitez was surprised to see the criticism come after just one game into the season. Despite having numerous chances against Sporting Gijon, Benitez was criticised for turning Madrid into a defensive team. The Spaniard could not have come up with a better response after watching his team get the first win of the season.
Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and James Rodriguez were all on the scoresheet, but Cristiano Ronaldo once again failed to score. In front of the Madrid supporters, Bale could not have come up with a better response for the criticism that he has received for almost a year. His opening goal was created by Rodriguez and it was a rare headed goal for the Welshman. His second was a much more usual offering, as his brilliant long-range strike just went in off the post. Rodriguez, though, was the star of the show since he created most of the opportunities apart from scoring two goals for himself. Interestingly, the Colombian was on the bench for the opening game. Benitez said:
“He joined much later than the rest because of the Copa America and needed to get up to speed. Nobody questions his quality. When we think he can add something to our play, he plays and at other times one of his team-mates does.
“I’m not worried about the debate of whether to play one player or another. I want an XI to play, do it right and win for the team.
“I’m delighted with the team’s performance. There are things to improve, but it was just a matter of time to show that punch.”
Benitez said before the match that he wanted to come up with a system that integrated all the stars in a seamless manner. Benzema, Bale, and Ronaldo started the game with Rodriguez providing the ammunition. Benzema missed the first match of the season but he marked his return to the team with a headed goal. The result was extremely crucial for Madrid, as they later saw Barcelona claim a narrow victory over Malaga at the Camp Nou. This was the second 1-0 win of the season for the Catalan club, but more crucially, they have a two-point advantage.
Club football takes a break for a fortnight due to the international action and it was crucial for Madrid to head into this break with a positive mood around the camp. The doom and gloom following the draw with Sporting Gijon had been lifted in the best possible manner, but Madrid know that they should continue with this kind of form if they are to win the league title for the first time since the 2011-12 season.