Real Madrid warmed up for the first leg of their Champions League semifinal with a 2-1 win over Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.
Mesut Ozil put the hosts ahead just before the interval and Karim Benzema added a second in the 57th minute. To Betis’ credit, they fought back with a penalty from Jorge Molina and came close to equalizing as they hit the cross bar late on. Yet, in the final minute of the 90, Ozil got a second to make the points safe for second-placed Madrid.
So close to their trip to face Borussia Dortmund, Madrid manager Jose Mourinho made a host of changes to his side. Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, on-loan from Sao Paulo, made his debut, but Los Blancos still had Cristiano Ronaldo among their ranks.
The first-half had contained plenty of entertainment and it truly sprung to life in the final minutes as both sides took turns to rattle the woodwork.
It was Madrid that went first when, in the 39th minute, Cristiano Ronaldo evaded two players 25 yards from goal before unleashing a sizzling low left-footed effort that came back off the bottom of the post. Just four minutes later Betis followed suit as Dorlan Pabon received a ball inside from the right and struck a fine effort that was only denied by the crossbar.
But on the stroke of halftime the ball finally found the back of the net and it was the home side that went in front. Ozil received a delightful return pass from Benzema clean through in the area and confidently struck a low left-footed effort to beat Betis keeper Adrian at his near post.
And just before the hour mark, Madrid’s passing and movement exposed the Betis defense once more. This time Ronaldo supplied the through ball for Benzema and, like Ozil, the French forward finished clinically at the near post.
Betis, still chasing a spot in Europe for next season, were not prepared to lie down, though and found a way back into the contest. As Madrid were caught out by a quick break, defender Nacho Fernandez got across to put a challenge in on Ruben Castro, but the forward turned back inside and had his leg taken from under him and a penalty was duly awarded.
With no run up, Molina struck his spot-kick high and it just evaded the dive of Diego Lopez to give Betis hope for the final 17 minutes.
And with two minutes remaining they could have been level. Ricardo Carvalho’s header back to Lopez fell woefully short and Castro looked poised to capitalize but his volley came back off the cross bar.
And that was to be prove the last hope for Betis of a recovery. From Ronaldo’s cross to the back post, Jose Callejon’s volley took a deflection to send it across goal where Ozil was positioned to finish from close range to make it four goals in two league games for the German.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.