Valencia move further clear at top in Primera Liga

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Valencia closed in on their second Spanish title in three seasons with a 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:06 IST
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Valencia, Spain:

Valencia closed in on their second Spanish title in three seasons with a 2-0 win over Real Betis on Sunday to open a four-point gap at the top of the Primera Liga standings. Goals either side of halftime from defender Curro Torres and midfielder Ruben Baraja gave Valencia a deserved victory and put them firmly in the driving seat as the title race reaches its climax. With three games to go Valencia lead the table on 74 points, followed by Real Madrid, who slumped to their second successive defeat on Saturday when they lost 2-0 at Deportivo Coruna, on 70. Primera Liga leaders Valencia welcomed Real Betis to the Mestalla on Sunday looking to further capitalise on second placed Real Madrid's loss on Saturday, and increase their lead at the top of the standings. They almost went ahead in the 17th minute, Betis defender Washington Tais keeping out Mista's header with a desperate goal-line clearance. But the visitors were unable to hold out for long, finally giving way nine minutes before the break after a defensive mix-up. Ruben Baraja hooked a pass towards the Betis area. Denilson failed to clear, thinking the ball was running out of play - and the ball fell to Curro Torres to put his side in front. Valencia made sure of victory early in the second half. After substitute Pablo Aimar had raced clear on the right and cut back a neat pass, the provider of the opening goal Ruben Baraja curled the ball into the net from the edge of the area. Valencia, who play regional rivals Villarreal in the second leg of a UEFA Cup semi-final on Thursday, had several chances to extend their lead. Having earlier scored his first goal of the season, Curro Torres almost doubled his tally on the same night - but his low drive went narrowly wide. Back at the other end, when Betis did find an opening, Santiago Canizares was up to the task in the Valencia goal. And by that time the 51,000 fans inside the Mestalla were already celebrating a win that makes the 2002 champions firm favourites to secure the title again in 2004. With 74 points, they lead second placed Real now by four points with three games remaining. (AP)

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