A goal by Mahamadou Diarra, his
first donning the White shirt, secured the three points for his team in
a new demonstration of collective commitment. The Malian international,
Guti and Reyes were the most outstanding players. In spite of the push
and shove of Betis, Real Madrid's defensive soundness was once again
patent and praiseworhty. This win allows Real Madrid to climb to the top
of the League table provisionally.
The beginning of the match offered no respite. In the space of five
minutes, Real Madrid made a clear stance on the Ruiz de Lopera pitch
which, by the way, was in a good state in spite of the two heavy
downpours suffered by Seville just hours before the beginning of the
game. Reyes, first, and a Betis defender, minutes later, who blocked a
perfect one-two between Reyes and Cassano, anticipated Diarra's strike.
Six minutes into the match, Real Madrid's defensive midfielder headed
into the back of the net a perfect cross by Cicinho, the former's first
goal with the White jersey -tonight, charcoal grey.
The goal barely made a dent in the development of the game and
everything continued as it had been up to that point: clear domination
by Real, although the local fans tried to push their team forward
incessantly. Diarra was omnipresent in his defensive endeavour in
midfield and Guti distributed the ball in attack with logical precision.
Everything Real Madrid were doing up ahead smelled of danger. Reyes, who
once again played down the right wing in spite of being a left-footer,
was plugged in and was once and again the most incisive and creative
player of Capello's side. He almost scored twice, but was left yearning
for his second goal with the Whites all throughout the encounter.
In defense, the game was almost placid for Cicinho, Cannavaro, Sergio
Ramos and Roberto Carlos (500 games with Real Madrid). The only
opportunity in the first thirty minutes for the green-and-whites came by
way of Brazilian striker Sobis following a mistake by Cannavaro, but no
The worst news of the match, Cicinho's injury, came in the 28th minute.
The Brazilian fullback twisted his knee as he attempted to deflect a
pass. The first tests performed on the player bring the worst news, as
it seems he has torn the anterior cruciate ligament. Raúl Bravo replaced
the Brazilian, with Capello opting for this all-chore boy on the right
instead of Sergio Ramos. Bravo did well and the defense continued to
abort all attempts by Betis, who only produced a header on goal by
Juanito after a corner kick in the last fifteen minutes of the first
half. Real Madrid were perfectly positioned behind, displaying a
granitic disposition that absolutely discouraged the Sevillian attackers.
Reyes and Cassano, almost always assisted by Guti, were the daggers on
which the team relied to kill-off the game in counter attack, whether
with own goals or setting Van Nistelrooy up. But the result stayed put
as both teams retired to the dressing room for the halftime break.
Real Madrid sought to settle the match for good with their second ASAP.
In the first minute of the second act, Cassano gave it to Van Nistelrooy
on a silver platter, but the Dutchman lost the one-on-one against local
stopper Doblas. Five minutes later, it was the Italian international
himself who failed to stick his boot in after a quick, ground-ball cross
by Reyes. The 2-0 was impending… or so it seemed.
Raúl and Beckham on stage
Betis resumed their disappearance act in attack as the defensive grid of
Real Madrid, with four defenders and a defensive midfielder pair
starring Emerson and Diarra, came shining through. And if not there was
always Casillas, who had little work but perfomed impeccably. Fabio
Capello started rotating the team halfway through the second half,
seeking an influx of freshness in the form of Raúl and Beckham for
Cassano and Reyes, respectively. Real either lost some push with the
substitutions, or more likely, Betis gained speed and power with the
introduction of Capi, Xisco, and Odonkor: a playmaker, a foward and a
fast winger. Still, the defensive wall of the Madridistas offered no
visible cracks for the Sevillians to penetrate.
In the final stretch of the match, the fans attempted a last and
desperate bout of support that might give their players wings, but Real
Madrid managed to steal the ball and interrupt the flow of the game time
and again. Diarra, once again, multiplied his physical display and
effort in benefit of the team, stealing the ball incessantly and driving
the boys of Betis absolutely mad. The last minutes -including a
six-minute injury-time extension- were a succession of fouls, yellow
cards, and a red card for local defender Nano after elbowing Diarra in a
fly-ball. Capello's men secured the three-point booty to take home to
Madrid and displayed fantastic teamwork. Looking good!