Sergio Ramos was yet again Real Madrid’s saviour as his late header defeated Real Betis 2-1 on Sunday and sent Los Blancos two points clear atop La Liga.
James Rodriguez continued in Gareth Bale’s absence for Madrid as Alvaro Morata started ahead of Karim Benzema. Betis, meanwhile, had won just one of their last nine Primera games and lost 6-1 in the reverse fixture, yet they lined up with two strikers, in a brave statement of their intent.
Two early chances for Ronaldo – who had still to score against the Andalusians at the Santiago Bernabeu – saw him balloon a square pass, despite being faced with an empty net, before he fired a half-volley at Antonio Adan’s near post, which the goalkeeper tipped around the post.
Ruben Castro was then sent through on goal at the other end, but the striker was probably too honest as he leapt over Sergio Ramos’ lunge, before clattering into Navas.
However, refereeing controversy suddenly reared its ugly head again. Darko Brasanac was away in the clear after he sprung Madrid’s offside trap from Antonio Sanabria’s diagonal ball.
Navas proceeded to wipe out the midfielder, who would’ve had an open goal to aim at, but referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz didn’t send off the goalkeeper or give Betis a free kick at the very least.
Nonetheless, Betis were made to feel vindicated when Navas committed a truly terrible mistake, allowing Sanabria’s tame shot to somehow squirm through his gloves and over the line.
Ronaldo rescued Madrid with less than five minutes of the first half remaining, the Portuguese unmarked as he powered a header home from Marcelo’s left-wing cross for his 210th goal at the Santiago Bernabeu, putting him level with club legend Alfredo Di Stefano.
Madrid nearly pulled ahead in the dying embers through James, who was free at the far post, but instead of attempting a first-time shot, he took a touch and gave his marker enough time to make the interception.
A sensational tackle from German Pezzella early in the second half saw him fly into a sliding tackle from behind Ronaldo, who was one-on-one with Adan, and push the ball from under the No 7’s feet.
The Portuguese did find the back of his ex-teammate’s net a second time, perfectly executing a lob, but was adjudged offside, although he seemed to be level.
Isco’s chipped pass then bounced between two Betis defenders and dropped in front of Ronaldo, but he sliced the ball wide of the near post.
A fantastic square ball from a breakaway soon found substitute Lucas Vazquez, who charged towards the Betis box, forcing Cristiano Piccini to pull the winger back for his second yellow card.
It was quickly followed by Ramos bagging his 10th goal of the season. The defender darted onto a corner and sent a bullet header past Adan.
Better yet for Madrid – and aside from Barcelona and Sevilla both dropping points – Navas redeemed himself when he pushed away Sanabria’s glancing header right at the death.
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Betis
Ronaldo 41, Ramos 81 (RM) Keylor og 41, Piccini sent off 78 (RB)
Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Nacho, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Isco (Asensio 79); James (Lucas 69), Morata (Benzema 71), Ronaldo
Real Betis: Adan; Mandi (Navarro 84), Pezzella, Tosca; Piccini, Pardo, Brasanac, Durmisi; Sanabria, Castro (Petros 64)
Referee: Mateu Lahoz