Real Madrid’s hopes of retaining their La Liga were dealt a massive blow as they were held to a goalless draw away from home by Real Betis on Sunday evening.
The result means that Carlo Ancelotti’s side now sit 9 points behind league leaders Barcelona who beat Valencia 1-0 earlier in the day.
Reigning Spanish champions Madrid forged the better openings and turned the screw in the final stages, but could not find the goal they needed to stay as close as possible on Barcelona’s tail.
Karim Benzema had a free-kick strike disallowed for a handball by team-mate Antonio Rudiger, while Betis goalkeeper Claudio Bravo made fine saves to deny the French forward and Vinicius Junior.
Thibaut Courtois was also forced into two superb stops by Betis who showed why they are in contention for a Champions League place next season with a hearty performance.
“We will keep fighting. It’s still March and there is a lot to be played,” Real defender Lucas Vazquez told Movistar Plus.
“We made enough to deserve something more. We were not on target in the last stretch, we are not happy with the result.
“I urge the fans to keep trusting in us. We will fight until the end for the three titles we are competing in.”
It was a lively match at Seville that needed a goal with Real Madrid dominating the proceedings but an often dangerous Betis constantly threatening Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
Is the LaLiga title race over as Real Madrid keep losing ground?
Real Madrid will keep fighting until the end of the season — the club’s high standards demand nothing less — but this draw saw Barcelona’s lead at the top of LaLiga extended to nine points, and it’s hard to envisage a scenario in which Barca’s efficient, if unspectacular, team under manager Xavi squanders that advantage.
Real Madrid’s performance here was not poor. Real Betis are a good team and the Estadio Benito Villamarin is an intimidating arena, but Madrid were the better side, dominating possession, creating more chances and ending the game with an expected goals of 1.21 to Betis’ 0.41. They were frustrated by some poor finishing, and a solid display by veteran Claudio Bravo in the Betis goal.
Rodrygo almost made up for Madrid’s below-par attack
This was another game that fed the doubts around Karim Benzema’s ability to return to the out-of-this-world performance levels that earned him the Ballon d’Or last year. Yes, he was a little unlucky that his free kick brushed Rudiger’s arm on its way into the net, but otherwise, this was a disappointingly quiet night for the 35-year-old.
The best of Madrid’s attack was Rodrygo, enjoying the rare opportunity to play in his favoured role — inside, behind a centre-forward, with freedom to roam, and with Valverde covering the right side. It’s a role that gets the best out of his intelligent movement, close control and ability to take players on. He was only let down by a bad second-half miss.
Betis are now fifth, three points behind Real Sociedad, but with the Basque side showing signs of tiring, Betis have the squad to go all the way, even with the twin demands — for now — of LaLiga and European football. A top-four finish to secure a Champions League spot is in full view.
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