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Ruud awakening for Betis as ten-men Real triumph

SoccerNews in La Liga 27 Sep 2008

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Ten-men Real Madrid needed a stoppage time winner from Ruud van Nistelrooy to stay within one point of new league leaders Villarreal with a fortunate 2-1 victory at Real Betis on Saturday.

Spanish international Sergio Garcia repaid Betis a chunk of his 10 million-euro transfer fee with his first goal to cancel out Gabriel Heinze's opener but van Nistelrooy had the final say in the dying seconds.

Real had been reduced to ten men on 54 minutes when Brazilian Marcelo conceded a penalty and deservedly got a straight red card for his foul.

Spanish international Garcia, later sent off for a second booking, saw his spot-kick saved by international team-mate Iker Casillas but hammered home the rebound.

Betis had chances to take all three points but Dutch striker van Nistelrooy pounced on a chance in added time to break Betis hearts.

“I think we deserved to win as we were superior especially in the first half when we had various opportunities apart from the goal,” explained Real coach Bernd Schuster.

“I always have faith that this team can win in the face of adversity and at the most difficult time in the match – when we had a man sent off and gave away a penalty – they knew exactly what to do.”

Real now pack their winter wear for the cold trip to Russia to face UEFA Cup holders Zenit St Petersburg in Tuesday's Champions League group match.

Villarreal are also in Champions League action against Celtic on Tuesday and sit top of the table after a 1-0 win over Sporting Gijon on Saturday.

Valencia can reclaim top spot with victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.

Sporting had leaked 13 goals in two heavy defeats to Barcelona and Real Madrid but shored up at the back to hold Villarreal 0-0 at the interval.

However Giuseppe Rossi struck on 64 minutes to make it 13 points from 15 for Villarreal while Sporting don't have any.

Real had whacked Sporting 7-1 last time out but found it much tougher at Betis.

With 18 minutes gone Rafael van der Vaart, who scored a hat-trick in his last match, floated a precise cross in for Heinze to head home.

However Real needed a brilliant point blank save from Casillas close to half-time with the goalkeeper pushing Achille Emana's shot onto the post.

But Marcelo hauled down Damia Perez on 54 minutes and his dismissal turned the game on its head as Real coach Bernd Schuster sacrificed captain Raul for a defender.

Garcia, a summer signing from Real Zaragoza, converted at the second attempt after Casillas parried his initial spot-kick.

But van Nistelrooy left the home fans tearful with a devastating last minute winner.

Barcelona make the short trip to derby rivals Espanyol later on Saturday in what could be the final time the two teams meet at the Montjuic Stadium with Espanyol set to move to their new ground before the end of the season.

Espanyol have lost key players to injury but Barca coach Pep Guardiola fears that could work in their favour.

“Their injuries and losses concern me,” admitted Guardiola. “It puts them in the role of the victim and I would prefer that they had all their players available.

“Barcelona are always favourites however we have to watch out for their strikers (Raul) Tamudo and Luis Garcia as they have a lot of movement.”

On Sunday Atletico Madrid host Sevilla at the Vicente Calderon in the first big game of the new season.

Sevilla coach Manolo Jimenez has been impressed by what he has seen of Atletico so far and said they were genuine title contenders.

“As far as I am concerned Atletico Madrid are contenders for everything,” said Jimenez.

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