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La Liga: Real Madrid slip to 2nd with loss to Betis

Seville (Spain), March 9 (IANS) Real Madrid gave up a late goal to fall 1-2 to Real Betis and slip to second place in La Liga just a week after taking the lead by beating Barcelona in the Clasico.

The Blancos came into Sunday’s match at Seville’s Benito Villamarin stadium trailing Barca by 2 points after the Blaugrana’s hard-fought victory on Saturday over Real Sociedad, reports Efe news.

But Zinedine Zidane’s men came up against a 14th-place Betis side determined to put more distance between themselves and the drop zone ahead of next weekend’s derby against Sevilla.

Betis started ambitiously and the visitors responded by trying to control midfield. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro gradually took charge and began to get balls forward.

Vinicius Jr. threatened the Betis goal, yet Real Madrid seemed in no hurry to press the attack, preferring to wait for openings on the counter.

That approach carried risks and only Marc Bartra’s lack of finishing prevented Betis from drawing first blood on a set piece. Minutes later, Nabil Fekir forced a great stop from Blancos keeper Thibaut Courtois.

In the 40th minute, Madrid’s Sergio Ramos clattered into Fekir and the ball rolled to Betis defender Sidnei, who hammered home to put the hosts ahead 1-0.

But it didn’t take long for Sidnei to go from hero to villain, fouling Marcelo in first-half stoppage time to hand Real Madrid an opportunity from the penalty spot.

Karim Benzema converted — his first goal in eight matches — to bring the Blancos level.

Despite conceding just before the break, Betis started the second half with drive and enthusiasm. Modric had to make a goal-line stand to thwart Joaquin Sanchez with Courtois caught out of position.

Blancos defender Ferland Mendy, who replaced Marcelo at the hour mark, hit the cross-bar going for the potential match-winner and the final phase of the match was wide open.

It was another sub, former Barcelona man Cristian Tello, who decided the contest for Betis, beating Courtois in the 82nd minute to make it 2-1.

–IANS

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