By Andy Hall
Real Madrid CF overcame the loss of goalkeeper Iker Casillas to injury to reduce FC Barcelona's Primera División lead to six points by defeating Real Betis Balompié 3-1 on Wednesday.
Michael Owen, partnering Ronaldo in attack, opened the scoring on nine minutes. Just before half-time Roberto Carlos celebrated his 300th Primera División game with a blistering free-kick from inside the area to make it 2-0. However, Madrid were dealt a body blow when Casillas was substituted after injuring his right leg on 53 minutes.
Edu poked the ball past substitute César Sánchez just before the hour to reduce arrears but Iván Helguera restored Madrid's two-goal cushion almost immediately, sending a looping header over the goalkeeper to ensure they capitalised on Barcelona's 0-0 draw with RCD Espanyol last night.
Sevilla FC remain third after drawing 2-2 with Valencia CF. Renato found Jesuli to half-volley Sevilla in front on 40 minutes but just before the break David Navarro headed an equaliser. Pablo Aimar swept the ball past Esteban Suárez to give his side the lead on the hour, although Sevilla were back on level terms seven minutes later when Julio Baptista converted a penalty. Baptista could then have won it, only to send a second spot-kick over the bar.
Villarreal CF are level with Sevilla on 43 points after beating lowly RCD Mallorca 2-1 at home. Javi Venta turned the ball into his own net to put Mallorca ahead on 15 minutes but Villarreal equalised just after the hour with a stylish individual goal from Luciano Figueroa. Diego Forlán then bundled in a winner from close range with seven minutes to go, his 16th league goal of the season. Valencia and Espanyol are a point off the top four.
Club Atlético de Madrid lost ground on the European contenders as they fell 2-1 against Real Racing Club Santander. Fernando Torres's penalty opener was cancelled out by Mario Regueiro and David Aganzo. Albacete Balompié dropped into the bottom three behind Racing after being held 1-1 by CA Osasuna and CD Numancia drew with Levante UD by the same score.
RC Deportivo La Coruña defeated Getafe CF 2-1, while Málaga CF overcame Athletic Club Bilbao 1-0 and Real Sociedad de Fútbol claimed a 2-1 win against ten-man Real Zaragoza.
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