MADRID - Promoted Real Betis surged to
the top of the table after hanging on to beat Real Zaragoza 4-3
despite playing with 10 men for the last 21 minutes of a
thrilling La Liga clash on Thursday.
Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz scored twice as the hosts
raced into a 4-1 lead before a foolish red card for keeper Casto
Espinosa sparked a Zaragoza fightback in the second half.
The Seville-based club, who have spent the last two years in
the second division, are the only side with a 100 percent record
this season and have a two-point lead over Valencia after four
Malaga are three points off the pace in third spot, one
point ahead of champions Barcelona, Sevilla and Levante.
Barca drew 2-2 at Valencia on Wednesday, the same day as
seventh-placed Real Madrid were held 0-0 at Racing Santander.
In Thursday's other game, experienced Uruguayan striker
Walter Pandiani came off the bench to snatch a 91st-minute
winner for Espanyol in a 1-0 home victory over Getafe.
Santa Cruz, on loan from Manchester City, notched his first
goal for Betis from close-range after seven minutes before Salva
Sevilla doubled the lead from the penalty spot.
Zaragoza defender Efrain Juarez pulled one back after Casto
made a hash of a cross in the 36th minute.
The game looked to be all but settled after Benat netted a
second Betis penalty and Santa Cruz headed their fourth goal on
Casto's red card then threw Zaragoza a lifeline. The Betis
keeper needlessly raced out of his area to bring down Luis
Garcia after 69 minutes and Juan Carlos rattled the home side
when he volleyed in nine minutes later.
From an identical position Juan Carlos volleyed his second
goal, and Zaragoza's third, with 11 minutes to go but the
visitors were unable to find the equaliser in a frantic finale.
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