Madrid loses 2-1 at Betis as Barcelona stays top in Spain

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              Real Madrid's Karim Benzema reacts at the end of La Liga soccer match between Betis and Real Madrid at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Seville, Spain, Sunday, March. 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Miguel Morenatti)
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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — One week after beating Barcelona, Real Madrid gave back the lead of the Spanish league to its fiercest rival after what its coach called the team’s worst performance of the season.

Madrid was thoroughly outplayed by Real Betis in a 2-1 loss in Seville to fall two points behind Barcelona on Sunday with 11 rounds left.

Neither of the league’s powerhouses is proving to be dominant this campaign. Madrid and Barcelona fans are becoming accustomed to seeing their teams drop points or squeak out wins against modest rivals.

But while Barcelona needed a video review to get a penalty in a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad on Saturday, a day later Madrid was simply out-hustled by a Betis side that hadn’t won in six rounds.

“We committed too many errors, erred on too many passes … we were lacking in everything. You can call this our worst game of the season,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, whose team beat Barcelona 2-0 last weekend.

“We lacked energy, possession, aggressiveness,” Zidane said. “We did not deserve to win.”

BETIS VICTORY

Led by France forward Nabil Fekir, Betis bossed Madrid for long stretches of the game.

Fekir drew a fine one-handed save from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois before Sidnei struck for the hosts.

Sidnei pounced on a loose ball on the right side of the box and surprised Courtois with a powerful rising strike just inside the near post in the 40th minute.

Seconds before halftime Sidnei helped Madrid to equalize when he kicked Marcelo while disputing a ball in the area. That sent Karim Benzema to the spot where he netted his first goal in more than a month.

Fekir befuddled Madrid again after the break when he dribbled past Éder Militão to start an attack that ended with Joaquín Sánchez dribbling around Courtois, only to make a bad pass instead of shooting on an open net.

Substitute Ferland Mendy had Madrid’s best chance from open play when he struck the crossbar in the 70th. Zidane also sent on Mariano Díaz and Federico Valverde to refresh his attack and midfield.

But Betis kept pressing and Andrés Guardado stole a pass by Benzema that forced Sergio Ramos out of position. That left Cristian Tello a clear path to receive a ball from Guardado and he beat Courtois for the 82nd-minute winner.

“This is a breath of fresh air,” said Betis coach Joan “Rubi” Ferrer, whose team climbed to 12th.

LEGANÉS WINS AWAY

Leganés got its first away league victory of the season after Óscar Rodríguez scored two goals to lead a 2-1 comeback at Villarreal.

Rodríguez blasted a shot from the edge of the area that grazed the top of the crossbar before hitting the corner of the net to cancel out Gerard Moreno’s opener.

Rodríguez got his second from the spot after the referee consulted video review before calling a penalty on Pau Torres for tripping Roger Assalé.

Leganés is in second-to-last place and three points from safety.

ESPANYOL SLUMPS

The improvement Espanyol showed after coach Abelardo Fernández took over appears to have stopped.

Espanyol is six points from safety after four rounds without a win following its 1-0 loss at Osasuna.

Roberto Torres scored Osasuna’s goal from the penalty spot after Víctor Sánchez touched the ball with his hand.

Espanyol finished with 10 men and a defender playing as a makeshift goalkeeper after keeper Diego López received a second booking for handling a ball outside the area.

“I erred in picking my starting lineup, put all the blame on me,” Fernández said.

OTHER RESULTS

Athletic Bilbao was helped by two defensive errors by Valladolid centerback Mohammed Salisu to ease to a 4-1 win at Valladolid.

Granada earned a 1-1 draw at Levante.

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