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Transfer Rater: Neymar to Real Madrid

Football Whispers
 By Rob Train

Cristiano Ronaldo far from his best in La Liga losing return for Real Madrid

Real's poor recent run of form continued, as Cristiano Ronaldo's return to league action couldn't prevent a narrow loss.

Real Betis upset the odds and recorded their first victory in 20 years at the Bernabeu -- fairly and squarely -- as Real Madrid's inauspicious start to their La Liga title defence took another body blow. Tonny Sanabria is the man who won't have to pay for dinner in Sevilla any time soon with the Paraguay international scoring a stoppage-time winner.


Real did not play poorly and created plenty of chances. Of their 27 shots, though, only seven were on target, and as the enormity of a third-successive home game without victory dawned on Zinedine Zidane's side desperation took hold. Gareth Bale had a decent game as he feels his way back from serious injury but unfortunately for Real few of his teammates followed suit.


Real's impotence against Quique Setien's masterful blueprint was epitomised by a Dani Carvajal drag back in the dying minutes that the Betis back line simply watched roll to safety. Antonio Adan made some excellent stops, but the prospect of Real running away with a win a la Barcelona against Eibar was never a serious one. Zidane's side now find themselves seven points adrift of the leaders after five games.

Real MadridReal Madrid
Real BetisReal Betis
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Manager rating out of 10

4 -- Would any player other than Cristiano Ronaldo warrant an automatic place in the starting lineup after a five-game domestic suspension when Madrid had coped admirably in his absence against Real Sociedad? Zidane panicked with his substitutions, at one point eliciting the wrath of referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz for having 12 players on the pitch. It was a night to forget for the Real boss.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Keylor Navas, 7 -- The No. 1 was required to make just two saves, the second a world-class stop from Fabian, and should remain blameless in the inevitable inquisition.

DF Dani Carvajal, 6 -- Saved his side with a goal-line clearance early on but caused unnecessary panic later, a throw-in straight to Fabian bringing the best out of Navas. Often lacking a first touch on the front foot, Carvajal rattled the woodwork in the second half on a luckless evening.

DF Sergio Ramos, 5 -- Clearly eager to score another overhead goal, Ramos tried one in stoppage time but could have applied similar effort to defensive duties as he stood and watched Sanabria score the winner seconds later.

DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- The result could have been more damning still but for Varane, who covered the lines expertly when his colleagues pressed upfield. From a starting position on the halfway line, he hounded Francis Guerrero to put the Betis canterano off his stride.

DF Marcelo, 5 -- The left-back left far too much room for Francis to exploit and, although he was involved in the occasional attack, looked a little off the pace before going off with what looked like a hamstring injury.

MF Casemiro, 5 -- In a statistic indicative of Real's evening, Isco made more tackles than the Brazilian, who missed four as Betis ran amok in midfield.

Ronaldo pouts vs Betis 170920
Cristiano Ronaldo never got on track in his losing return to La Liga play.

MF Toni Kroos, 6 -- Kept things ticking over as Luka Modric assumed the creative reins. Chanced his arm with a drive from distance that Adan steered wide for a corner but this was far from vintage Kroos.

MF Luka Modric, 8 -- A driving run ended with a shot into the side netting. Had the Croatian buried a cracking side-foot volley, goal of the season shouts would have been fairly loud. By far Real's best player on the night, Modric delivered a collector's set of wonderful balls for his attacking line, who failed to accept the gift.

MF Isco, 6 -- Dropping deep to look for the ball, Isco played a glorious early pass for Gareth Bale and another for Ramos. Tested Adan with a crisp strike but failed to influence the game and was the first number up as Zidane shuffled his pack.

FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- His best game since returning from injury. Played a cute cut-back for Ronaldo and fed Casemiro at the near post a minute later. Often in the right position for searching passes from deep, Bale almost bamboozled Adan with a flick that the Betis keeper touched onto the woodwork. He sent in several crosses that should have reaped greater profit.

FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 5 -- Closely monitored by Zouhair Feddal and Aissa Mandi, Ronaldo's best chance came in the first half with a back-heel attempt reminiscent of his strike at Rayo. Two shots on target from 12 attempts sums up his contribution and his desperation manifested itself in a hotly argued non-existent penalty appeal just after the hour mark.


MF Marco Asensio, 6 -- On for Isco on 67 minutes, Asensio lacked his customary spark and could not drag Real out of the rut as he did against Valencia.

FW Lucas Vazquez, NR -- On for Marcelo, Vazquez added energy but few ideas to the Real attack.

FW Borja Mayoral, NR -- On for Modric in a double change with Vazquez, Mayoral drew a fine save from Adan with his first touch in a one-on-one and another with a late header.

Rob Train covers Real Madrid and the Spanish national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @Cafc13Rob.


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