Brazilian pair Diego Tardelli and Robert were both on target as two late goals earned Real Betis Balompié a healthy first-leg lead against AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Cup Round of 32.
Betis struggled to create clear chances against a determined and disciplined AZ defence, but substitute Tardelli broke the deadlock just seven minutes after coming on in the second half at the Manuel Ruíz de Lopera. His compatriot Robert finished the job with a fine finish to wrap up a win that had always looked likely after Edu struck a powerful shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area on three minutes. Arzu García then headed over before AZ began to find their feet as veteran Barry van Galen narrowly missed the target, and Betis goalkeeper Pedro Contreras was forced to beat out a shot from Demy de Zeeuw.
The home team made the better start to the second half with Fernando Varela sending a header over and Edu again trying his luck from distance only to see his effort fly just wide. The teams were cancelling each other out and chances were few and far between before both coaches decided to make changes - Van Galen was replaced by Stein Huysegems for AZ, while Tardelli came on for Dani Martín.
The latter wasted little time in making an impact as he collected a pass from Joaquín Sánchez on 70 minutes and struck a confident shot beyond the reach of Henk Timmer. Robert soon doubled the Betis advantage, pouncing on a loose ball and slotting in from eight metres. Edu could have made it three before the final whistle, but a two-goal advantage may yet prove enough for Betis to progress to the last 16 when the teams meet at the Alkmaarderhout next Thursday.