Real Madrid's 73-game goal streak ends in stunning 1-0 loss to Real Betis

(Getty)

Nobody is quite sure how. When they talk about what could have gone differently nobody will be quite sure where to begin. But somehow, some way, Real Madrid’s streak of consecutive games with a goal has been snapped at 73.

It was snapped by Real Betis, by heroics, by guilt-edged misses and by luck. It ended with a 1-0 loss at home, and ended despite 27 Real Madrid shots, and almost two dozen inside the penalty area.

It would have ended in a draw. But Betis had the gall to grab all three points at the death, with Antonio Sanabria winning the match in the 94th minute:


The streak, which stretched back to April 2016, also ended despite Cristiano Ronaldo … Or perhaps because of him?

The Portuguese superstar returned from suspension for his first La Liga match of the season, and attempted 11 shots inside the 18-yard box on his own. But he converted none of them. And missed one that will be replayed over and over:


Ronaldo also had a back-heel cleared off the line. Gareth Bale had a flying flick saved onto the post. Luka Modric hit the side-netting. Marco Asensio was stoned by Betis keeper Antonio Adan. Borja Mayoral sent Adan flying across his goalmouth to save a stoppage-time header.

Bale’s effort in particular would have been a special way to prolong the goal streak:


Minutes after Mayoral’s header, Betis broke in the other direction and stunned the Santiago Bernabeu. Sanabria, sneaking in at the back post, beat Keylor Navas with a header back against the grain.

Betis became the first club outside of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid to win and keep a clean sheet in a league game at the Bernabeu in six years, since Sporting Gijon achieved the feat in 2011.

Madrid, meanwhile, has failed to win any of its first three home league matches of a season for just the third time in the club’s 115-year history. It drew 2-2 with Valencia to close out August, and dropped two more points at home in a 1-1 draw with Levante earlier this month.

The early struggles leave Madrid seven points behind Barcelona after just five matches – already, technically, with the league title out of its control.

Los Blancos have been unlucky, sure. They very easily could be perfect, joint-top with Barcelona, on 15 points rather than eight. And they will surely re-find their scoring touch soon. They are likely the best team in the world.

But a seven-point gap, in a top-heavy league such as La Liga, could ultimately prove decisive. A steep climb is ahead.

Betis actually had several chances themselves, both early and late, even before the goal. Madrid’s defending was far from secure. The visitors could have gone ahead twice inside the first 10 minutes.


Instead, they left it late, and made it all the more dramatic. It was their first win at the Bernabeu in almost 19 years.

And it preserved history. Madrid’s 73-game scoring streak was the joint-longest of all time in officially documented soccer history, tied with Pele’s Santos of Brazil. That mark has been disputed – there have been recent claims that Argentina’s River Plate went 96 in a row with a goal in the 1930s.

Either way, a goal on Wednesday would have preserved Madrid’s streak. Somehow, some way, no goal arrived.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.