Beaten Sociedad stay clear as Real Madrid also lose

MADRID: Real Sociedad lost 3-2 at Real Betis to a last-minute penalty but the Basques stayed two points clear at the top of the Spanish League after their closest rivals Real Madrid were also beaten on Sunday. 

Sociedad were looking to re-establish a five-point lead at the top following Real Madrid’s surprise 1-0 defeat at Osasuna. 

With four minutes to go they were firmly within sight of their target as Turkish striker Nihat Kahveci struck twice to put them 2-1 ahead. 

A looping header from Iulian Filipescu brought Betis level, though, and Fernando earned all three points for the home side when he stroked in from the spot with what was almost the last kick of the game. 

Defeats for the top two left Sociedad clear at the top with 44 points from 22 matches, followed by Real Madrid on 42. 

Valencia are third, behind Real Madrid on goal difference, after their 2-0 win at home to Malaga on Saturday, while Deportivo Coruna stay fourth thanks to a 1-0 win at Valladolid. 

Further down the table, Barcelona eased their relegation fears with a much needed 2-0 derby victory away to Espanyol featuring goals from Philip Cocu and Xavi. 

While Valencia, Deportivo and Barcelona all warmed up for the return of the Champions League with victories, Real Madrid turned in one of their worst performances of the season. 

Christian Manfredini got the only goal on 38 minutes and as Real chased the game they had Luis Figo sent off just past the hour mark. 

A disjointed display will be a worry for coach Vicente del Bosque, with Real Madrid bottom of Champions League Group C with just a point from two games and badly in need of victory over Borussia Dortmund at the Bernabeu tomorrow. 

“We wanted the victory but we couldn’t find a way,” Del Bosque said after the game. “There’s never a good time to suffer a defeat but we're still involved in the title race and we’re going to fight all the way.” 

Real Madrid did not manage a shot until the 23rd minute when Ronaldo created some space but skewed his effort well wide. 

Osasuna were on top throughout the first half, with Manfredini proving a real menace down the left. 

Manfredini, signed on loan from Lazio during the transfer window, twice set up John Aloisi for excellent shooting chances before breaking the deadlock himself on 38 minutes as he jinked past Michel Salgado and drilled a shot past Iker Casillas. 

Real Madrid looked in better shape at the start of the second half but Osasuna weathered the storm and almost grabbed a second goal on 63 minutes as Aloisi hit the post from an Ivan Rosado pass. 

A minute later Figo saw red for his wild tackle on Francisco Punal and that made life considerably easier for Osasuna, who kept possession well for much of the rest of the game. 

They failed to add to their lead, though, and almost paid the price as substitute Fernando Morientes headed against the underside of the bar in a furious goalmouth scramble in injury-time. – Reuters 

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