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Owen helps Real outgun Betis
Updated: 2005-03-03 10:06

Real Madrid closed the gap on leaders Barcelona to six points at the top of the Primera Liga when they out-gunned Real Betis with a 3-1 win at the Bernabeu.

Real Madrid's Briton Michael Owen (L) celebrates with his teammates Brazilian Roberto Carlos (3) and Ronaldo after scoring their second goal against Betis during their Spanish Premier League football match at Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid. Real Madrid beat Real Betis 3-1.[AFP]
Betis were the better side for much of the first half on Wednesday, but an opportunist strike from Michael Owen and a thunderbolt from fullback Roberto Carlos put Real 2-0 up at the break.

Midfielder Edu pulled one back for the visitors with a sharp strike on the turn early in the second half, but centre back Ivan Helguera snuffed out any hopes of a comeback when he looped a header over keeper Antonio Doblas two minutes later.

Barcelona, who were held to a 0-0 draw at home by city rivals Espanyol on Tuesday, lead the standings with 59 points, Real follow on 53, a distant 10 ahead of in-form Villarreal.

Manuel Pelligrini's side climbed into third thanks to a 2-1 win at home to relegation-threatened Real Mallorca, Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan snatching a late winner to take his tally for the season to 16.

Earlier Sevilla and Valencia fought out a dramatic 2-2 draw that kept the teams in the hunt for the Champions League places.

Sevilla striker Julio Baptista, who had equalised when he cracked home a penalty midway through the second half, missed a golden opportunity to seal victory when he skied another spot kick over the bar just six minutes from time.

Valencia, who got off to a winning start under new coach Antonio Lopez with a 2-1 victory over Betis at the weekend, were also left ruing their bad luck when they had a late goal controversially disallowed for a foul.

The result left Sevilla fourth in the standings, level on points with Villarreal and one ahead of champions Valencia.

Visitors Betis should have taken the lead in the second minute at the Bernabeu when winger Joaquin danced through the Real defence but then dinked a weak lob straight into the hands of keeper Iker Casillas.

Nine minutes later England striker Owen squirmed his way past two defenders to poke the ball under Doblas after Santiago Solari had cut a pass into the area.


Casillas made several top-drawer saves to keep the dominant Andalucians at bay, before being forced to leave the pitch with what appeared to be a groin injury early in the second half.

The pressure was relieved on Real, though, when the referee awarded them a controversial free kick 10 metres out from the goal after defender Luis Fernandez was adjudged to have given a back-pass to keeper Esteban just before the break.

Roberto Carlos celebrated his 300th league appearance for Real by firing an unstoppable thunderbolt high into the net.

Owen spurned two good chances to extend Real's lead after the break, slicing one shot over the bar and then scuffing a follow up into the arms of the keeper.

Betis looked as though they might stage a comeback when Edu stepped round two defenders to fire home past reserve keeper Cesar, but Helguera destroyed their hopes when he restored his side's advantage two minutes later.

The home crowd were unsatisfied, however, and Ronaldo was greeted with a chorus of jeers when he failed to convert several late chances to extend Real's lead.

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