An injury-time winner by Rafael Van der Vaart gave Real Madrid a 3-2 win against Sevilla and the lead in the Spanish league on Saturday after 10-man Barcelona drew 2-2 with Almeria.

A Xabi Alonso own goal gave Sevilla the lead in the ninth minute in the Bernabeu Stadium. Ivica Dragutinovic scored the visitors’ second in the 52nd, from a direct free kick which confused the Madrid defence and left goalkeeper Iker Casillas standing.

Cristiano Ronaldo cut the deficit in the 60th, sweeping the ball in with his left foot from a Marcelo cross, and Sergio Ramos equalized in the 64th, heading in from a corner.

Madrid and Barcelona both have 62 points after 25 games, with the former ahead on goal difference.

Earlier, Deportivo La Coruna came from behind to beat Tenerife 3-1 for fifth place.

Sevilla attacked Madrid down the wings early on, with Diego Perotti, Jesus Navas and Diego Capel unsettling the home defence.

However, Madrid started to find its rhythm as halftime approached and had a string of chances.

Alonso and Marcelo both tested Andres Palop with fierce shots and Gonzalo Higuain did well to strike a Ramos cross first time although the shot was straight at the goalkeeper.

Jose Maria “Guti” Gutierrez and Van der Vaart went on for Alvaro Arbeloa and Lassana Diarra early in the second half as Madrid looked for more attacking options.

The change nearly paid off as Guti struck the crossbar before Ramos levelled.

With Madrid pressuring for the winner, Higuain and Ramos lunged for a Ronaldo cross although both missed, letting the ball roll across the goalmouth.

Guti was at the heart of most of Madrid’s attacks and he put Higuain through on goal in the 73rd, although the striker hit the crossbar.

Raul Gonzalez went on for Kaka in the 75th as Madrid poured forward until Van der Vaart found the net with seconds to spare.

At Almeria’s Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium, Domingo Cisma jumped above Carles Puyol to head home in the 12th minute, then Lionel Messi equalized in the 42nd, fooling goalkeeper Diego Alves with a curling free kick.

Puyol was at fault again in the 57th when he stretched to intercept the ball and tapped into his own net, but Messi levelled for a second time.

“We played well, but the result is a shame,” said Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. “These are important points that have got away from us.”

The start was delayed for 10 minutes after the home players were told that regulations prohibited them from wearing the slogan “Strength, Chile” on their shirts, in tribute to victims of the country’s earthquake. However, they were eventually allowed to wear the message of support.

The pace was intense as Barcelona spent much of the game in possession and pressuring for equalizers.

Messi was particularly lively, and just failed to reach a rebound from Pedro Rodriguez’s cross from the right in the eighth. In the 30th, Messi put Zlatan Ibrahimovic through although the striker shot just over. Messi then headed high from Daniel Alves’ cross just before the break.

Almeria’s ‘keeper did well to get a hand to a Xavi Hernandez free kick and Ibrahimovic headed wide from Andres Iniesta’s cross moments later.

Almeria also created several chances and Puyol made a last-ditch clearance as Albert Crusat followed up on the rebound from a shot by Guilherme Oliveira Santos.

Referee Clos Gomez expelled Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola from the dugout in the first half for protesting a decision. The Barcelona players were then outraged when Ibrahimovic was sent off on the hour after an altercation with Cisma.


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