Real Madrid overcome battling Betis to regain top spot

Real Madrid maintained their unbeaten record and returned to the top of La Liga after a 2-0 win over Real Betis but they made hard work of despatching the side from Seville on Thursday.

The reigning Spanish champions' captain Raul Gonzalez finally broke the deadlock from the penalty spot after 66 minutes following a foul on him by Betis midfielder David Rivas.

Brazilian international Julio Baptista then got Real's second five minutes from time but the scoreline flattered the reigning Spanish champions with lowly Betis hitting the woodwork no less than three times during the game.

Real started well and had by far the best of the first half hour, and a clear majority of the possession, but gradually Betis worked their way back into the game.

Edu and Mark Gonzalez both had good opportunities to score just before David Rivas sent a header against the post six minutes before the break.

The close shaves meant Madrid left the field at the break with whistles from the Real faithful ringing in their ears and the jeers from their ever-critical fans continued well into the second period until Raul opened the scoring.

Madrid rode their luck once again late in the game when Betis threw everything at them in search of an equaliser.

Firstly Rafael Sobis's free kick skimmed off the cross bar after 75 minutes and Mark Gonzalez then hit the post just a minute later.

The hosts' nerves finally calmed when second half substitute Baptista, who had only been on the field five minutes, hammered home his first goal of the season from the edge of the area.

The victory means that Real Madrid have 13 points from their five matches and a one point lead over Villarreal and Valencia, who are second and third respectively and split by goal difference after both teams won on Wednesday.

By contrast, at the other end of the table, Betis are third from bottom and still looking for their first win this season with only two points to their name.

Villarreal had an impressive 2-0 win at Racing Santander with goals from Turkish international Nihat Kahveci and their American-born Italian striker Guiseppe Rossi.

Valencia laboured to a 2-1 win over struggling Getafe but notched up their fourth successive win with first half goals from Spanish internationals David Silva and David Villa before Braulio Nobrega got one back for Getafe late in the game.

Unbeaten Barcelona are one point further back in fourth after inflicting a 4-1 thrashing on Real Zaragoza later on Wednesday.

All the goals in Barca's Nou Camp stadium came in the first half, with their Argentine international winger Lionel Messi finding the net after just five minutes although Zaragoza's Alberto Zapater equalised four minutes later.

However, the 2006 European champions quickly got back into their stride and Messi took barely a minute before he sent a cross from Deco into the back of the net to give Barca the lead again.

Andres Iniesta and Rafa Marquez added more goals before the break before the Catalan club stepped off the gas in the second half.

"I didn't see anything negative about this team," said Barca coach Frank Rijkaard after the game, responding to public and media criticism about him and his team.

However, Rijkaard might possibly concede that summer signing Thierry Henry once again had a below-par game, a fact which even the excellence of his team mates couldn't hide.

The Frenchman squandering several chances, including two late in the game, which would have added to the Catalan club's tally.

(Courtesy: www.soccerway.com)

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