Real Madrid's 'character' on display in 'crazy' defeat of Betis - Zidane
Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane hailed his side's "character" after they came from behind to win a "crazy game" in Sunday evening's 5-3 La Liga victory at Real Betis.
With Zidane having rotated his side following their midweek Champions League victory over Paris Saint-Germain, Madrid went ahead early at the Benito Villamarin when Cristiano Ronaldo's shot was saved, and Marco Asensio cleverly headed home the rebound.
But Betis began to dominate possession and equalised when Aissa Mandi headed home Joaquin Sanchez's superb cross, before veteran Joaquin was again centrally involved as Los Blancos defender Nacho put into his own net before half-time.
A recharged Madrid scoring three times in 20 minutes following the break -- Sergio Ramos with a bullet header from a corner, Asensio side-footing home after a super run and cross from Dani Carvajal, and Ronaldo cutting inside and flashing a 15 yarder into the goal for 4-2.
The drama was not over there, with Betis substitute Sergio Leon getting one back with six minutes remaining, and Madrid replacement Karim Benzema finishing off the scoring in added time.
Zidane told the postgame news conference that his team had worked together to make sure they turned the game around for what was just their second win in their last six Liga away trips.
"This shows that we have character," Zidane said. "With the quality we have, and when we are all together like that, it is difficult for any opponent. That is what happened in the second half.
"This is football, it was a bit of a crazy game, but I like that. Betis are in fantastic form, and played very well. They controlled the final half hour of the first half. I don't focus on the three goals conceded, I focus on the five goals scored."
Words spoken in the dressing room at half-time had led to the change in attitude and tactics in the second half, Zidane revealed.
"We started very well, got a goal, then I am not sure why but we then sat back a bit and that does not suit us," he said. "Things stay in the dressing room, but it's true I spoke with them, to explain some things, and we did much better in the second half.
"But they [players] also knew we had to change. And we did change. In the second half we pressed high, ran hard. With the quality we have, if we play in the opposition half we can make it difficult for any opponent. Our second half was spectacular."
Zidane accepted that wingers Asensio and Lucas Vazquez, also important off the bench against PSG, had again shown they could be relied upon.
"I value the game of Marco, with his two goals and participation. But for me, as always, it is about the team's work. Lucas Vazquez too, on the other wing. They always deserve more, as when they get to play, to do their work, and with personality."
Ronaldo now has 10 goals in his last six games in all competitions, following a dip in form earlier in the season.
"Cristiano is doing well, we are happy," Zidane said. "I am happy to see him scoring, and up there fighting. We are getting close to the end of the season, all the games for us are very important, and to see all the players doing very well makes me happy."
Zidane was less effusive when asked about the contribution of Gareth Bale, benched midweek against PSG, who missed two clear chances and was then substituted midway through the second half.
"Bale played his game, and that's it," was Zidane's only comment on the Wales international.
More worrying news for Madrid was a hamstring injury for left-back Marcelo, who now joins Toni Kroos [knee ligaments] as an injury doubt for the UCL second leg at PSG on March 6.
"I hope Marcelo's problem is small," Zidane said. "He said his feeling was that it was not too serious. But we will see in the coming days."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan