Madrid clobber Betis 5-0, Barcelona pip Malaga 1-0 in Spanish League
Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez scored two goals each to fuel Real Madrid’ 5-0 rout of Real Betis in its home opener Saturday, while Barcelona edged Malaga 1-0 in the Spanish League.
Rodriguez picked out Bale to set the tone from the second minute and increased the lead with a vicious free kick from a tight angle in the 39th.
After Karim Benzema made it 3-0 early in the second half, Rodriguez produced another brilliant strike with a bicycle kick to whip in his second goal in the 50th.
Bale was not to be outdone and struck a blistering long ball while on the run that hit the upright before landing in the net with two minutes left.
While Madrid eased to the convincing win, Barcelona needed Thomas Vermaelen to score his first goal for the defending champion to secure a second straight win at Camp Nou.
Barcelona leads Madrid by two points after two rounds, but it was Celta Vigo that took the overnight lead on goal difference after crushing 10-man Rayo Vallecano 3-0.
Madrid’s victory was a relief for new coach Rafa Benitez, whose league debut last weekend ended in a frustrating scoreless draw at promoted Sporting Gijon.
Betis, which also returned to the topflight this season, was no match for Madrid at its Santiago Bernabeu Stadium and with Rodriguez back in the starting lineup after Benitez had left him out of his first-choice 11 in Gijon.
“For me, I could care less about the debate regarding which player plays,” said Benitez. “I just want 11 players playing well. I want to enjoy the 5-0.”
Bale was the first beneficiary of Rodriguez’s return when he spotted the Wales winger unmarked and placed a lobbed pass for him to head in beyond former Madrid goalkeeper Antonio Adan.
The outclassed Betis barely weathered Madrid’s relentless push for a second goal until Rodriguez drove a strike in off the far post from a free kick placed on the line on the right side of the area.
Bale then crossed for Benzema, who was injured in round one, to head the ball home in two minutes after halftime.
It went back to Rodriguez to again ignite the crowd with his acrobatic shot, lifting up Toni Kroos’ pass before slamming in back into the net with his back to the goal.
Goalie Keylor Navas had his quiet night interrupted when Raphael Varane fouled Jorge Molina in the box, but he responded by smothering Ruben Castro’s spot kick in the 61st before Bale capped the lopsided win from long range.
While Messi was Barcelona’s most incisive player, Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo was oddly subdued. Neither rival has scored through two rounds.
Malaga goalie Carlos Kameni had denied Messi on several occasions before Vermaelen broke through in the 73rd.
Vermaelen started in place of the suspended Gerard Pique, and his goal marks quite a turnaround for a player who only appeared in the final league match of last season because of nagging injuries that had previously limited him before his arrival from Arsenal.
“Everyone knows what I went through,” said Vermaelen. “The preseason was very important and the coach (Luis Enrique) gave me the opportunity to show what I am capable of. I am very grateful.”
Neymar, who played his first game of the season after recovering from the mumps, focused on setting up Messi and almost assisted him twice near the start of the second half.
But Kameni was up the task when he stopped Messi with his seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th saves of the night as Barcelona pressed for a breakthrough. It finally came when Kameni parried Luis Suarez’s cross and Vermaelen used his left boot to sweep it home.
David Moyes’ Real Sociedad is still searching for its first victory — and its first goal — after the Basque side drew 0-0 with Sporting.
Celta was led to its big win by Manuel “Nolito” Agudo’s two goals.
Rayo goalkeeper Antonio “Tono” Rodriguez was shown a direct red card for fouling Daniel Wass in the 10th minute.
Nolito converted the penalty before hitting a second goal in the 50th. Andreu Fontas rounded off the win in the 88th.
Barcelona’s Brazilian forward Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, left, falls as he vies with Malaga’s defender Argentinian Marcos Alberto Angeleri during the Spanish league soccer match FC Barcelona vs. Malaga CF at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on Saturday, Aug. 29.