First Division - Day 22

Real Madrid 1 - Betis 1

Real Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Karanka, Pavón, Roberto Carlos; Iván Helguera (Solari 75'), Makelele; Figo, Zidane, Raúl; Morientes. 4-2-3-1.
Betis: Prats; Tais (Calado 61'), Juanito, Rivas, Luis Fernández; Ito, Benjamín; Joaquín, Gudjonsson (Varela 46'), Denilson (Dani 86'); Amato. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Madrid: Karanka for Hierro / Betis: Rivas for Filipescu.

1-0. 45. Iván Helguera. Shot in from left of goal after through ball from Zidane.
1-1. 88. Juanito. Headed in off bar from long Luis Fernández free kick.

A disappointing Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw by Betis in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, but still remain three points clear at the top of the table. Despite having played an intense cup semi-final in Bilbao midweek, Del Bosque once again stuck to the same side, with Hierro the only absentee after injuring himself the week before. Juande Ramos also only made one change from the side which drew at Espanyol, Rivas coming in for the injured Filipescu. The visitors took the early initiative, and Amato should have scored when he drove his shot against the post with only the keeper to beat. But then Madrid started to put on the pressure, and after Figo had almost caught out Prats twice in a row, Iván Helguera finally beat the keeper after Zidane put him through with a quick change of direction.

The home side started to run out of steam in the second half though as their legs tired, and the nippy Denilson and Joaquín started to make inroads running at the defence. With twenty minutes to go referee Pino Zamorano awarded a controversial penalty after Makele tripped Joaquín on the edge of the area, the Madrid defenders claiming the foul was outside of the penalty box. Amato looked a worried man though as he stepped up to take the kick, and Casillas stood his ground long enough to see that his shot was aimed for the centre of the goal. A few minutes later Madrid's only substitute Solari headed the ball in the net from Figo's corner but the referee disallowed the goal for a non-existent foul by Calado, television pictures later showing that it was the Portuguese midfielder who was holding back the Madrid forward.

That inspired Betis to keep looking for the equaliser though, and after Karanka cleared off the line from the unfortunate Amato, Juanito finally headed the ball in off the bar from a Luis Fernández free kick. The 75,000 capacity crowd left the ground disappointed, but their side still top the table and another big attendance is expected in the cup semi-final second leg game against Bilbao next Thursday. Betis move up a place to seventh, but with the sides bunched together at the top they are only three points away from second placed Celta and six behind their opponents.