Levante beat Betis to reclaim fourth spot

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Levante continued to defy their humble status as Valencia's second club when they beat Real Betis 3-1 to reclaim fourth place in La Liga on Monday.

Athletic Bilbao and Malaga had leap-frogged Levante with victories at the weekend that lifted both clubs to 37 points from 25 matches, with Bilbao climbing into Spain's fourth Champions League qualification berth on goal difference and Qatar-owned Malaga in fifth.

Victory over Betis at their Ciutat de Valencia stadium put Levante back in fourth on 38 points, five behind city rivals Valencia, who won 1-0 at Granada on Sunday.

Midfielder Jose Barkero set Levante on their way with a 34th-minute free-kick and a Xavi Torres header made it 2-0 in the 42nd minute.

Betis pulled a goal back two minutes later when Jorge Molina made the most of a defensive error to fire past Gustavo Munua before Arouna Kone sped clear to score six minutes after the break and make it 3-1.

Levante, the season's surprise packages, have one of the oldest squads in the Spanish top flight and an annual budget of only 20 million euros, compared with Real Madrid's of almost 500 million.

They beat Real 1-0 in September and briefly topped the standings before falling out of form and slipping down the table.

There are a slew of teams in the fight for European qualification and only five points separate Levante from 11th-placed Espanyol on 33 points, with Bilbao, Malaga, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla in between.

Real Madrid are 10 points clear of second-placed Barcelona after both teams won at the weekend and Barca have a 14-point advantage over Valencia. Betis are 12th on 30 points.