Real Madrid Moves to Top of La Liga

September 23, 2006

real-madrid-soccer-ball.gifReal Madrid finally looked as capable as one would expect from a team so riddled with talent as they held off Real Betis for a 1 – 0 road victory.

Antonio Cassano and Jose Antonio Reyes were brilliant as Madrid dominated the first half possession.

It didn’t take long for the new-look Madrid to jump out front. On 6 minutes, Cicinho put a lovely cross into the area, Mahamadou Diarra rose to get a head on it, and it was 1 – 0 before the game had even settled.

It looked that Fabio Capello’s side would be up two just a few minutes later when Reyes fired from close-in on the right. But Betis keeper Toni Doblas was quick to react and made a fingertip save to keep the difference at one.

But Reyes was all over the pitch and in the 17th minute he was on the left side as he fired a rocket that skimmed the outside netting.

Madrid looked better than they have in years, as the passing was fluid and the chances were many. The halftime scoreline of 1 – 0 was hardly justified as Madrid could have been up three or more.

The new La Liga leaders started the second half strong as the dangerous Cassano almost picked out Ruud Van Nistelrooy, but Doblas saved Betis again, charging off his line to steal the ball from the Dutch striker’s feet.

Betis began working their way back into the match, but were still unable to create any clear-cut chances.

Even as they pushed forward with possession, the best chances went to Madrid with Van Nistelrooy just missing again in the 53rd.

Cassano was subbed-off for Raul in the 60th and Reyes went off for David Beckham in the 67th as Madrid looked to control play and slow Betis down. But the strategy didn’t pay off as Betis still had the better of play.

In the 73rd, Tati Maldonado gave way for David Odonkor, whose speed troubled the left side of the Madrid defense. The German World Cup stand-out sent a dangerous cross into the area in the dying minutes, but no Betis player could get a head on it to find the equalizer.

In the sixth and final minute of extra time, Madrid should have killed the game off when Guti’s quick free-kick found Raul. But the Spanish legend’s chip to Van Nistelrooy was put high over the bar as Van Nistelrooy was again unable to produce a quality finish.

The only negative for Madrid came when Roberto Carlos came off in extra time after receiving a cut under his left eye. The Brazilian great seemed woozy after taking an elbow to the head on a challenge just a few minutes before.

Real Madrid are top of the table with 10 points. Barcelona, Valencia and Sevilla all play Sunday and have 9.

Diarra Goal – From Cicinho

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