Ronaldo fails to mask Real flaws as Owen draws blank

Real Betis 1 - Real Madrid 1
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The Independent Online

Real Madrid donned their all-black second strip to visit Betis on Saturday and bar a brief flicker of individual brilliance from Ronaldo, they gave a convincing impression of a team mourning their own footballing decline.

Real Madrid donned their all-black second strip to visit Betis on Saturday and bar a brief flicker of individual brilliance from Ronaldo, they gave a convincing impression of a team mourning their own footballing decline.

A classy 66th-minute equaliser by the three-time World Player of the Year was the only bright spot in an otherwise grim performance from a side that seems incapable of recovering its self-esteem following its confidence-shattering meltdown at the end of last season.

Real's Mariano Garcia Remon sounded more like the coach of some no-hope relegation strugglers rather than the boss of the nine-times European champions when he made his assessment of the game.

"The important thing was that we fought right to the end," he said. "It's true the team isn't where I would like it to be but if we can cast aside our fear and nervousness and put ourselves under less pressure then we will improve."

Betis had been in even poorer shape than Real going into the match, notching just one narrow 1-0 win in six previous outings. But it is a measure of the seriousness of Real's predicament that for most of the game they were completely outclassed by their opponents.

It was the Andalucians who looked more like the galacticos in the first half as they sliced through the paper-thin Real defence leaving the former Valencia striker Ricardo Oliveira to pepper the goal with a series of stinging shots. And it came as little surprise when the Brazilian gave the home side the lead just after the half-hour mark.

Catching the Real defence off guard once again, he sprinted on to a smart through-pass from his fellow forward Fernando, glanced up and then curled the ball round the outstretched Iker Casillas to score his second goal of the season.

Despite the presence of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Raul and Ronaldo, Real were unable to manufacture one chance in the first half. Garcia Remon threw on Michael Owen after the break in an attempt to rectify the situation, but despite a busy performance the England striker never looked like opening his Spanish account.

It was not until the 66th minute that Real managed their first shot on target and that resulted in the Ronaldo equaliser. Dropping deep in his frustration at receiving no service from midfield, the Brazilian collected the ball 30 metres out, exchanged a neat one-two with Zidane and drilled a perfectly struck shot into the corner.

Meanwhile a Deco goal meant that the unbeaten league leaders, Barcelona,saw off potentially tricky opponents Espanyol 1-0.

Betis (4-4-2): Prats, Varela, Lembo, Rivas, Tais; Joaquin, Benjamin (Arzu, 79), Cañas, Fernando; Edu (Niño, 80), Oliveira.

Real Madrid (4-4-2): Casillas; Mejia (Arbeloa, 58), Pavon, Samuel (Owen, 46), Roberto Carlos; Figo, Guti, Helguera, Zidane; Raul (Celades, 87), Ronaldo.

Referee: P Zamorano.

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