Ceballos rescues Real Madrid with late free kick

15 January, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Injury-hit Real Madrid snatched a 2-1 victory at Real Betis on Sunday, earning their first La Liga win of the year thanks to a late free kick from Dani Ceballos to return to the top four, reports Espn.

Luka Modric had given Real the lead in the 18th minute, lashing a loose ball home from the edge of the area after a failed clearance by Betis defender Marc Bartra.

Santiago Solari’s side, who were missing seven first-team players and lost Karim Benzema to injury at the end of the first half, were pegged back by former forward Sergio Canales who levelled in the 67th minute with a scrappy finish through the legs of stand-in goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The goal was awarded after a video assistant referee (VAR) consultation.

But substitute Ceballos, a former Betis player, secured a vital win with two minutes remaining, sending his free kick outside the Betis wall and into the corner.

“We really had to suffer for these three points, which feel like gold for us,” said Ceballos.

The victory took Real Madrid above Alaves and into fourth place on 33 points, although they are still 10 points behind leaders Barcelona who beat Eibar 3-0.

Madrid’s long absentee list, which included Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio, Thibaut Courtois and Toni Kroos, prompted Solari to field an unorthodox 3-5-2 formation but the Argentine again opted to leave out fan favourite Isco and also dropped the experienced Marcelo.

Betis, who outplayed champions Barcelona and won 3-2 at the Nou Camp this season, monopolised possession after the interval and pinned Madrid back around their area.

There was an air of inevitability about Canales’ equaliser and Betis hunted a winner, but Real showed grit to withstand the pressure before Ceballos struck.