SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Sevilla captain Vicente Iborra came off the bench to lead his side to a second-half comeback at fierce local rivals Real Betis on Saturday, assisting and scoring in a 2-1 win to provisionally take Jorge Sampaoli’s side joint-top of La Liga.
The visitors looked to be suffering a hangover from their Champions League win over Leicester City on Wednesday as they were outrun in the first half by Betis, who took a deserved lead in the 36th minute from a free kick by Riza Durmisi.
Sampaoli made a double substitution at the start of the second half, bringing on Iborra and striker Wissam Ben Yedder, and it was Iborra who set up the equaliser for Gabriel Mercado in the 56th minute, allowing the Argentine defender to stab the ball in from close range.
Sevilla then found the winner in the 76th minute. Steven Nzonzi headed Samir Nasri’s free kick on for Iborra to knock into the top corner and seal Sevilla’s fourth successive win in all competitions.
They are now second in the standings, level on 52 points with leaders Real Madrid, who have two games in hand and visit Villarreal on Sunday. Champions Barcelona are third on 51 points and play their game in hand of Sevilla at Atletico Madrid on Sunday.
Roared on by 42,000 supporters who had waited 11 years since their last home win over their neighbours, Betis dominated the first half and Sevilla barely got a sniff of the ball.
Betis had a total of 12 attempts in the first half, more than Sevilla have conceded in any game this season, although it took a set piece to break the deadlock.
Nzonzi gave away the foul and Durmisi whipped the ball through the ineffective Sevilla wall and inside the near post.
“Betis dominated us in every aspect in the first half in the second we had to change things radically because if we had kept on as we were it would have been impossible to turn things around,” Sampaoli told a news conference.
“But we had a great response in the second half, we dominated and created a lot of chances. The thing that makes me happiest about today is being level with Real Madrid at the top of the table, so I‘m doubly happy.”
Earlier on Saturday Valencia could not build on the momentum of their surprise win over Real Madrid in midweek and were beaten 2-1 at Alaves despite taking the lead in the second half.
Youngster Carlos Soler put the visitors ahead in the 70th minute before Ibai Gomez levelled and Aleksandar Katai struck the winner four minutes from time.
Leganes picked up a first win since November by thrashing Deportivo La Coruna 4-0 to provisionally move five points clear of the relegation zone.
Editing by Ed Osmond