Real Betis Balompie drew level on 31 points with fourth-placed Malaga after Ruben Castro and Jorge Molina struck in a 2-1 win at Real Zaragoza in La Liga on Friday.
Betis continued their fine form away from home with a sixth victory in nine games on the road, keeping them fifth in the table with an inferior goal difference to Malaga, who visited RC Deportivo de La Coruna yesterday.
Castro fired Betis ahead in the 44th minute at La Romareda when he galloped on to a pass from Nigerian midfielder Nosa Igiebor and put the ball low past Zaragoza goalkeeper Roberto.
Molina doubled the lead 13 minutes into the second half when he made the most of an error by defender Alvaro Gonzalez, before Francisco Montanes pulled a goal back for Zaragoza 13 minutes from time.
Gonzalez’s night went from bad to worse when he was shown a straight red card after the final whistle for verbally abusing the referee.
“Away from home we are playing better and starting the year with three points is not a bad thing,” Castro, 31, said in an interview with Spanish broadcaster Marca TV.
“There is still a lot of time left in the season and we know it’s going to be tough, but I think we have a good team, we are doing things well and we’ll see if we can keep it up,” he said.
Seville-based Betis, who beat champions Real Madrid 1-0 at the end of November, are looking good for a place in Europe next term.