Neil Warnock paid tribute to goalscorer Josh Murphy after Cardiff City’s home defeat in their final pre-season friendly.
Murphy was given a standing ovation when he went off, making way for Kenneth Zohore, and Bluebirds manager Warnock said: “He is improving all the time and is more of a team player now.
“In the last he has done all the individual stuff, but now is part of the team.”
Man of the match Murphy caught the eye with his pace and movement, scoring a cracking goal and missing a golden opportunity when he was put through by Junior Hoilett.
5' ⏱️ GÔL/GOAL!!
— ⚽ Sgorio (@sgorio) August 4, 2018
Murphy, who looks certain to be a fans favourite, had a lot of time when he went one-on-one with goalkeeper Pau Lopez, but his low shot rolled wide of the far post.
He scored after five minutes, blasting a force shot into the roof of the net from 15 yards.
“I wanted to play a team like Real Betis because they keep the ball so well,” said Warnock. “Our concentration was excellent and I am delighted overall.
“We must learn not to make silly mistakes and treasure the ball more. But we created great chances. If Real Betis had those chances we would have lost 5-1.
“It is important we stay patient in the Premier League and playing against the quality Real Betis have made it a great test for us.”
Warnock underlined that next week is all about increasing the size of his squad, possibly with two midfield players and a striker, but says: “We’ve had knockback after knockback, but I won’t bring anybody in for the sake of it.”
Betis gave the Premier Bluebirds an ideal pre-season test ahead of next Saturday’s opening League fixture at AFC Bournemouth.
Seville-based Real Betis, a team with outstanding technical ability, dominated possession and had the ball at their feet for 74 per cent of the opening half.
The Spanish team took control through central midfield, passing with a simplicity and accuracy which had City working to hold on.
Manager Warnock’s team stayed disciplined and goalkeeper Neil Etheridge was scarcely troubled for some time, while Murphy, playing alongside Junior Hoilett in attack, smashed home a superb strike after five minutes.
The Bluebirds were good value for that lead and Sol Bamba played a key role in midfield, operating just in front of captain Sean Morrison and the super-cool Bruno Manga, a player who always stays calm under pressure.
Real Betis have a squad full of quality and they went in at the break leading 2-1 thanks to goals from Lorenzo Moron (23 mins) and Christian Tello (30).
Their team includes Spanish internationals, while Andres Guardado has earned more than 100 caps for Mexico and has played in the last four World Cups for his country.
There were plenty of positives for Cardiff, but it’s clear they need extra quality in central midfield and Warnock is working on that.
Aron Gunnarsson was not in the squad against Betis, having suffered a kick to a knee, but his experienced may be needed at Bournemouth.
Cardiff created chances and Callum Paterson almost levelled the scores from a cross by the ever-dangerous Junior Hoilett, but the ball was slightly behind the Scotland international and he could only turn his effort over the bar.
Left-back Joe Bennett has surely earned a starting place at Bournemouth after shining against Betis, while Lee Peltier did well on the right.
Warnock sent Kenneth Zohore and Loic Damour on after an hour as Cardiff upped the tempo and took the game to their visitors, while Greg Cunningham and Mendez-Laing went on for the last 20 minutes.
Cardiff went ahead when Murphy smashed home an unstoppable shot early in the game, while Moron equalised with a low shot into the net from 15 yards.
Real Betis went ahead with an unfortunate goal after 30 minutes when Cardiff failed to stop a low cross and Tello’s shot went through the legs of Morrison and goalkeeper Etheridge, who was deceived by a deflection off Bamba’s boot in front of him.
Cardiff could, and maybe should have, levelled the scores during a second half in which they were on top, helped in part by the number of changes made by Real Betis, who used 23 players in total.
Cardiff City: Neil Etheridge, Lee Peltier, Joe Bennett (Greg Cunningham 71), Sean Morrison (capt), Bruno Manga, Sol Bamba, Joe Ralls, Josh Murphy (Nathaniel Mendez-Laing 71), Callum Paterson, Bobby Reid (Kenneth Zohore 63), Junior Hoilett (Loic Damour 63). Subs not used: Brian Murphy (gk), Matt Connolly, Kadeem Harris, Gary Madine.
Real Betis: Pau Lopez, Javi Garcia, Marc Bartra, Sergio Canales, Cristian Tello, Takashi Inui, Lorenzo Moron, Joaquin (capt), Aissa Mandi, William Carvelho, Francis Guerrero. Subs: Joel Robles (gk), Zouhair Feddal, Sergio Leon, Victor Camarasa, Antonio Sanabria, Ryad Boudebouz, Andres Guardado, Antonio Barragan, Alin Tosca, Darko Brasanac, Junior Firpo, Edgar Gonzalez.
Referee: Lee Evans.