Real Betis move top of La Liga

Two Santa Cruz goals help move Real Betis to top of pile as late goal from Walter Pandiani clinches win for Espanyol.

    Paraguayan striker Roque Santa Cruz already looks to be a great addition to newly promoted Real Betis [EPA] 

    Roque Santa Cruz scored twice to lead 10-man Real Betis to a thrilling 4-3 win over Zaragoza on Thursday as the newly promoted Andalusian side moved top of the Spanish league standings.

    Goals from Santa Cruz and Salva Sevilla - from the penalty spot - after just 12 minutes set Betis on their way to match the best ever start of a promoted club with four straight victories.

    Former Celtic defender Efrain Juarez pulled one back for Zaragoza before halftime, but Benat Etxebarria stroked home another penalty in the 47th and Santa Cruz headed in his second goal two minutes later.

    However, the game then swung Zaragoza's way after Betis goalkeeper Castro Barriga was sent off with 20 minutes to play for pulling forward Luis Garcia down outside the area, with the goal wide open.

    Zaragoza pressed forward and substitute Juan Carlos Perez gave the visitors hope with two late goals, but Betis held on during the final 10 minutes for the memorable win.

    Also on Thursday, super-sub Walter Pandiani scored an injury-time winner as Espanyol beat Getafe 1-0 condemning their rivals to their third successive defeat.

    Getafe had not won away since January and their confidence was not high after a poor start to the season but they were up against an Espanyol team who had also suffered two defeats from three games.

    There was plenty of toil but little flowing football in the first half.

    However, after the break, Espanyol took the game to the visitors.

    Javi Marquez saw a deflected shot go just wide and Alberto Lopo blocked a Vladimir Weiss strike on the line but it was really keeper Miguel Moya who was keeping Espanyol at bay. In particular he did well to stop a Thievy Bifouma shot from close range.

    Getafe missed a great chance themselves when Juan Valera blazed wide late on but Espanyol got a deserved win a minute into injury time, when Pandiani, who had only been on the pitch for 15 minutes, coolly slotted home in the box.


    Spain's top two continued to struggle in midweek as Barcelona could only draw 2-2 away to leaders Valencia while Real Madrid came away with a 0-0 draw from their trip to Racing Santander.

    Cesc Fabregas rescued a point for Barcelona and has now scored in the four league games so far to set a record for a new player, but the result means the champions have now already dropped four points from the opening fixtures.

    The home side went ahead after just eleven minutes when Eric Abidal put a Jeremy Mathieu cross into his own net but just two minutes later Pedro Rodriguez equalised after an interchange between Fabregas and Lionel Messi.

    It was far from a typical display from Barcelona though as Valencia enjoyed plenty of possession in the middle of the pitch and they went ahead again via a Mathieu cross with Pablo Hernandez slotting the ball home unmarked at the far post.

    It was not until the final stages of the match that Barca asserted themselves and it was once again the Messi and Fabregas combination that made the difference with the Argentine finding the former Arsenal man, who placed the ball past the keeper.


    "I never believed it was a case of just two teams in the league as all the clubs are dangerous. This is still an important point for us as Valencia are a strong team although it is unfortunate we didn't get a third goal," said Barca keeper Victor Valdes.

    It has been an even worse start for Real whose draw followed a defeat away to Levante at the weekend.

    Coach Jose Mourinho rang the changes which included Jose Callejon and Lassana Diarra coming into the side but it was another ineffective performance.

    Cristiano Ronaldo had a header well saved by keeper Tono Rodriguez before the break and in the second half the introduction of Angel Di Maria did make some difference but he was unable to change the course of the match.



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