MADRID: Argentine international Gabriel Mercado bundled home the winner as Sevilla moved up to second in La Liga with a 1-0 win over fierce local rivals Real Betis on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Mercado’s first goal for the club from on-loan Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri’s free-kick continued the Europa League holders’ four-year unbeaten run in the Seville derby in La Liga.
Betis were right to feel aggrieved just moments after Mercado’s 51st minute winner, though, when Alex Alegria had an equaliser wrongly ruled out for offside against Ruben Castro.
Sevilla leapfrog Barcelona and Atletico Madrid into second ahead of their meeting at the Camp Nou on Wednesday to move just a point behind leaders Real Madrid.
Jorge Sampaoli’s men merited their third straight home win for their greater attacking intent in a typically intense and bad-tempered affair that saw nine players booked.
Nasri had the clearest opening before the break, but fired straight at Antonio Adan after a mix-up between the Betis ‘keeper and his defence allowed the Frenchman a free effort on goal inside the area.
Adan was also to blame for the only goal when he failed to keep out Mercado’s weak effort that came off the Argentine’s back as he stretched to meet Nasri’s delivery.
Conceding immediately forced Betis onto the front foot for the first time in the game and a lovely move should have been rewarded with an equalizer just three minutes later.
Alegria slotted home at the back post from Castro’s cross, but the latter had already been wrongly flagged for offside.
Earlier, Malaga came from behind to register their first win of the season thanks to teenage Moroccan forward Youssef En-Nesyri’s winner 15 minutes from time in a 2-1 victory over Eibar.