Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema took a feeble Real Betis apart to fire Real Madrid to a thumping 5-0 win that put them level with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga on Saturday.
Madrid’s dynamic performance against the bottom club laid down a marker ahead of Barca and Atletico’s games on Sunday at Levante and at home to Sevilla respectively and suggested Carlo Ancelotti’s side are in fine fettle going into the second half of the season.
The three top sides all have 50 points, with fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who host struggling Real Valladolid on Monday, trailing on 36.
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“This was a good chance to be top for one night at least,” Ancelotti told a news conference.
“At least tonight we will sleep well,” added the Italian, in his first campaign in charge after taking over from Jose Mourinho in the close season.
Known collectively in Spain as ‘BBC’, Bale, Benzema and Cristiano cost Real, the world’s richest club by income, in excess of 200 million euros ($271 million), more than three times the value of the entire Betis squad.
As well as the prolific trio, Croatia international Luka Modric played a starring role at the Benito Villamarin in Seville alongside the imperious Xabi Alonso in midfield as Madrid ruthlessly dominated from start to finish.
Ronaldo, who also netted in the 2-0 King’s Cup win at Osasuna on Wednesday, celebrated Monday’s FIFA Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best player with a stunner to open the scoring in the 10th minute.
The Portugal forward picked up a pass from Angel Di Maria on the left, cut inside and unleashed a blast from distance that rocketed past Betis goalkeeper Stephan Andersen into the top corner for his 21st league goal of the campaign.
The hapless Andersen was again left rooted to the spot when Bale’s delicate free kick nestled in the back of the net in the 25th minute.
The Betis supporters were furious with the Danish keeper, whistling him the next few times he touched the ball, and also began singing the name of former coach Pepe Mel who was sacked last month and replaced by Juan Carlos Garrido.
Chants of ‘Garrido go already’ also rang round the stadium and Betis woes deepened when Modric fed Benzema in the area and he fired inside the post moments before halftime.
It was the France forward’s 100th goal for Madrid in all competitions since he joined from Olympique Lyon in 2009.
Andersen partly redeemed himself when he produced a fine save to deny Ronaldo seven minutes after halftime but Di Maria made it 4-0 when he cracked a low, long-range drive into the bottom corner on 62 minutes.
Substitute Alvaro Morata clipped the ball in from close quarters in the 90th minute to complete the carnage.
“The whole team played well for the whole game and there was a lot of focus,” Ancelotti said.
“When we scored the first goal the match changed and we had more space to counter attack. The help the midfielders gave, especially Modric, was very important.”
Betis barely troubled Diego Lopez in the Madrid goal. They are rock bottom on 11 points, five adrift of Rayo Vallecano and Valladolid who are 19th and 18th respectively.
Rayo had defender Jose Raul Baena sent off in the 18th minute and lost 2-0 at promoted Elche, while mid-table Granada and Osasuna drew 0-0 at Granada’s Nuevo Los Carmenes stadium.
In the late game, former Spain forward Sergio Garcia scored a late winner to give Espanyol a 1-0 win at home to Celta Vigo that lifted Barcelona’s second club to eighth. ($1 = 0.7376 euros)