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January 24, 2016

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Real Madrid dropped its first points under coach Zinedine Zidane in a 1-1 draw at Real Betis on Sunday, while Atletico Madrid failed to regain the Spanish league lead from Barcelona after finishing goalless against 10-man Sevilla.

Madrid could only muster a second-half goal by Karim Benzema to cancel out Alvaro Cejudo's stunner, leaving it in third-place - four points behind the pace-setting pair.

Zidane had overseen two lopsided home wins, but Madrid's slip in Seville showed he hasn't cured its away ills.

Atletico's stumble left Barcelona ahead of Atletico on goal difference thanks to Saturday's 2-1 win at Malaga. The title-holders will also have a game in hand after they host Atletico next weekend in a highly anticipated meeting between the last two league champions.

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Antoine Griezmann had Atletico's best scoring opportunity when his header hit the post in the 53rd minute.

Sevilla then dug in and held on after Victor "Vitolo" Machin earned a second booking in the 61st, with Emery being sent off moments later for protesting the referee's decision.

"We created chances but they just wouldn't go in," said Atletico midfielder Jorge "Koke" Resurreccion. "We will give it our all next game at Barcelona."

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Emery's starting 11 was loaded with defensive players, and his game plan succeeded in disrupting Atletico's attack - and ending its nine-game winning streak in all competitions at its Vicente Calderon Stadium.

"We have to be happy with our effort," said Emery, who refused to comment on his sending-off after his team remained winless in all 10 away league games this season. "We missed an opportunity to take three points. We still need to do something more."

Atletico has based its title bid on an excellent defense and players rising to the occasion to get goals that its strikers, with the notable exception of Griezmann, have failed to produce.

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With Fernando Torres watching from the stands, Atletico coach Diego Simeone sent on attacking players Yannick Carrasco, Jackson Martinez and Angel Correa after Sevilla lost Vitolo, but the visitors withstood the onslaught.

Even so, Simeone stuck to his line that, despite winning the 2014 title, Atletico is not a contender to outlast the star-studded squads of Barcelona and Madrid.

"We maintained our point difference with Sevilla, a direct rival for third place, so the result is a good one," Simeone said.

Elsewhere, Aritz Aduriz scored two goals to lead Athletic Bilbao's 5-2 home win over Eibar in a Basque Country derby.

Borja "Baston" Gonzalez scored both Eibar's goals, while Aduriz's 12th and 13th in the league took his overall tally this campaign to 23.

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