BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Vinícius Júnior and Rodrygo scored to help Real Madrid end Real Betis’ perfect start to the Spanish league in a 2-1 victory for the defending champions on Saturday.
The young Brazilian forwards were critical to Madrid winning its record-extending 14th European Cup last season, and again they proved the difference in a meeting of the top two Spanish teams through the first month of the new campaign.
Madrid increased its league lead after winning all four of its games. Betis, which had been perfect in its first three matches, was left three points behind in second place. Barcelona was five points behind in third place before it visited Sevilla later.
Before kickoff, Madrid’s players presented the Champions League trophy and the recently won UEFA Super Cup to their fans in their first home game of the season. The club played the first three rounds on the road as it continues renovation work on Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
Betis hadn’t lost at Madrid in five seasons, winning two and drawing three while not conceding a goal at the powerhouse.
Vinícius broke that odd scoring drought against the Seville-based side in the ninth minute when he sped onto a long ball from David Alaba that played him clear of Betis’ high backline. He finished the move by chipping the ball over goalkeeper Rui Silva.
Moments later, Betis received a second blow when forward Nabil Fekir, one of Manuel Pellegrini’s top players, was substituted by Luiz Henrique apparently for an injury.
Sergio Canales leveled for Betis in the 17th when the midfielder converted from a crafty throw-in by Álex Moreno and Borja Iglesias. Iglesias, who leads Betis with four goals, knocked Moreno’s throw-in back to Canales to score from an angle.
It was all Madrid the rest of the way, however, as the scoring chances came in succession for the hosts as Betis failed to produce another threat to Thibaut Courtois’ goal.
Vinicius blew a chance to put his team back in front seconds after Canales’ goal when he knocked a pass from Rodrygo over the bar that he only needed to push Silva’s way. Silva was then in fine form when he dove to swat a powerful header by Aurelien Tchouameni.
But Rodrygo converted Madrid’s dominance into a second goal in the 65th when Silva failed to keep out his slick redirection of substitute Federico Valverde’s pass into the heart of the box.