Barcelona draw leaves Real Madrid on top


Madrid : The battle for the Spanish Primera Liga crown took another dramatic turn when Barcelona were held to a last-gasp 1-1 draw by lowly Betis.

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The surprise draw Sunday – with Betis' Rafael Sobis levelling in the 88th minute – leaves Barca level at the top with Real Madrid, both on 66 points with four rounds remaining.

Though Barca have a superior goal difference, Real are top through the Spanish direct results system, having taken four points off Barca in their two clashes this season.

The latest slip on the heels of Thursday's 0-4 cup thrashing by Getafe, confirms that Barca are in crisis and that this could be the beginning of the end for Frank Rijkaard's team.

Barca went ahead after just four minutes, when Ronaldinho put away a penalty after Deco had been brought down by Betis defender Melli.

The Catalans had plenty of chances to increase their lead in the first half. They ran out of steam and ideas in the second, and keeper Victor Valdes had to be on his toes to prevent a Betis equalizer.

In the 88th minute, though, Valdes failed to cover his near post when Sobis broke through down the right and shot – and two decisive points for Barca went in smoke.

"We shouldn't have dropped points like that," moaned Sanuel Eto'o, who refused to criticize Valdes. "We should have killed them off long before."

In third place on 64 are UEFA Cup finalists Sevilla, who beat Recreativo Huelva 2-1 Saturday at home.

Valencia stay in fourth place on 62 points after a 2-0 win Sunday over fifth-placed Zaragoza.

Thanks to first-half goals from Emiliano Moretti and David Silva, Valencia won despite David Villa missing a penalty.

Sunday's defeat leaves Zaragoza on 55 points, seven behind Valencia, with their Champions League dreams in ruins.

Atletico Madrid maintain sixth place – one point behind Zaragoza – with a 4-1 win at local rivals Getafe, with Fernando Torres returning from injury to score twice.

On Sunday, Valencia were the only team to win at home.

Villarreal thrashed Osasuna 4-1 in Pamplona with a hat-trick from Diego Forlan.

Mallorca ruined Racing Santander's slim UEFA Cup hopes with a 2-0 away win.

The big news at the bottom of the table was Levante's 2-1 win at Celta Vigo. In addition, Real Sociedad threw themselves a late lifeline by winning 3-1 at Gimnastic Tarragoona.

These results leave doomed Tarragona bottom with just 24 points. Celta and Sociedad are now tied on 30 points, both in massive trouble.

Then come Athletic Bilbao – who drew 1-1 with Deportivo Coruna -on 34, and Levante and Betis on 36.