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Japan’s Inui gets embassy introduction from Betis

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TOKYO (AP) Japan midfielder Takashi Inui was introduced by La Liga team Real Betis at the Spanish Embassy in Tokyo on Thursday after impressing at the World Cup.

The 30-year-old Inui, who played for Spanish club Eibar for three seasons, said he has a three-year contract with Betis.

“Betis’ football last season was very attractive for me,” Inui said. “I had a strong feeling that I wanted to be a part of the team.”

Inui scored two goals for Japan at the World Cup in Russia, and played a major role in helping his team reach the last 16.

Inui scored in Japan’s 2-2 draw with Senegal in the group stage of the World Cup. He got a second goal in his team’s 3-2 loss against Belgium in the knockout stage.

Real Betis says Inui will keep the No. 14 shirt he wore for the Japanese national team.

Late winner moves Betis into 6th in Spanish league

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MADRID (AP) Sergio Leon scored an 89th-minute winner as Real Betis defeated Getafe 1-0 in the Spanish league on Monday, moving into the qualification zone for the Europa League.

Betis jumped from eighth to sixth in the standings with its third straight victory. It is one point behind fifth-place Villarreal.

The teams in fifth, sixth, and seventh places qualify for the Europa League.

Getafe, which dropped to 11th, missed a 65th-minute penalty kick when goalkeeper Antonio Adan stopped Francisco Portillo’s shot from the spot.

Getafe also came close when defender Vitorino Antunes struck the post with a free kick in the 73rd, and the hosts were denied an injury-time goal when the officiating crew ruled that a ball headed into the far corner did not fully cross the goal line. Getafe also had a first-half goal disallowed for offside.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga

Real Betis boosts European hopes with 2-0 win at Levante

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VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Real Betis boosted its European qualification hopes in defeating struggling Levante 2-0 to move to seventh in the Spanish league on Monday.

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Betis jumped three places from 10th and is just three points behind city rival Sevilla, beaten at home by Atletico Madrid 5-2 on Sunday.

Sergio Leon sealed Betis’ 11th win, already more in 25 games than the side managed all last season.

Levante, which remains just a point above the relegation zone, started well and Betis goalkeeper Antonio Adan did well to deny Armando Sadiku and Jose Luis Morales from the follow up.

Teammate Roger Marti came agonizingly close to making the breakthrough before the half-hour mark.

But Betis improved and went ahead 10 minutes after the break when Chema Rodriguez headed the ball into his own net as he attempted to clear.

Leon claimed the winner with just over 20 minutes remaining. The home fans, resigned to their 11th defeat, started leaving around 10 minutes later.

23 arrested after fighting between Sevilla and Betis fans

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MADRID (AP) Spanish authorities say that 23 people have been arrested for participating in a fight between fans of Sevilla and Real Betis hours before the teams play each other in a league match.

The emergency services for Sevilla said via Twitter on Saturday that police intervened to make the arrests of “at least 23 people.”

They add that the rival fan groups had arranged the meeting in order to fight.

The derby between Seville’s two teams is considered the most hotly disputed rivalry in Spain.

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.