Soccer-Rodrygo winner helps Real Madrid maintain perfect start v Betis

Soccer Football - LaLiga - Real Madrid v Real Betis - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - September 3, 2022 Real Madrid's Luka Modric in action with Real Betis' Andres Guardado REUTERS/Isabel Infantes

MADRID (Reuters) -Real Madrid preserved their perfect start to the LaLiga season as they beat Betis 2-1 thanks to a second-half winner from Rodrygo at the Bernabeu on Saturday, keeping the defending Spanish and European champions at the top of the table.

Real struck first when David Alaba passed to Vinícius Jr with a magnificent long ball in the 9th minute, and the Brazilian raced forward and lobbed the ball over Betis keeper Rui Silva's head.

Betis responded eight minutes later when Real Madrid academy alumni Sergio Canales smashed an equalizer in between Thibaut Courtois legs.

Carlo Ancelotti's team fought back with a vengeance but missed several opportunities until they finally managed to break the deadlock in the 65th minute, when Rodrygo thumped home a close-range finish from a Federico Valverde cross.

Real Madrid now top the table on 12 points, the only team to win all of their first four games.

"We are happy but it's only the beginning of the season, we need to keep improving," Rodrygo told Movistar Plus.

"I'm glad that I could help my team when we desperately needed but also happy to play my first game from the start.

"I'm coming back from an injury but feeling great. I want to be a starter and I think I have what it takes."

One of the heroes of Real's run of comebacks to win the Champions League last season, the 21-year-old Brazil forward missed Real's first two games of the season with a leg muscle injury. He then came off the bench to deliver an assist last week against Espanyol.

On Saturday he started alongside Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema and helped Real create several chances as they enjoyed overwhelming control. But they were frustrated at times by a lack of precision in front of goal and also by an inspired Silva, who made three brilliant stops before Rodrygo managed to put Real back in front.

Aurelien Tchouameni, 22, was the man of the match as he continues to impress since taking the place of stalwart midfielder Casemiro, who left Real to sign for Manchester United.

He has added quality and an extra gear in the transition going forward to Ancelotti's team, turning any uncertainty among fans into a sense of optimism about the future.

Second-placed Betis have nine points after their first defeat, two in front of Barcelona, Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao who still have a game in hand.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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