Copa del Rey, third round first leg
Another disappointing result from Barcelona, who were beaten 1-0 by a second string Levante side despite putting out their best possible line up. Frank Rijkaard's team found themselves behind in the ninth minute after the referee awarded a rigorous penalty when Puyol held back Aganzo, Rivera converting the kick. The first division side didn't react until the second half, but when they did, reserve keeper Aizpurúa put in a brilliant performance to keep out Iniesta, Xavi, Saviola and substitute Sergio García amongst others. Márquez also hit the bar with a header as Barcelona piled on the pressure, but Levante could have increased their lead on the breakaway, Víctor Valdés saving well from Cuéllar and Ettien shooting just wide near the end.
Sevilla virtually ensured their presence in the quarter finals after coming from behind to bear Villarreal 1-3. Both sides put out strong line-ups, but the locals took the lead with a quarter of an hour on the clock when Belletti beat Esteban from the edge of the area. The Andalucians fought back in the second half though, with an inspired Baptista taking a return pass from Daniel Alves to make it all square four minutes in to the restart. Six minutes later the Brazilian midfielder returned the favour to his fellow countryman for him to shoot low past López Vallejo, and Baptista himself rounded things off with a third goal after Darío Silva set him up later on. Both sides ended with ten men after Casquero and then Coloccini were sent off in the final minutes. (08.01.04)
A depleted Real Madrid side drew 1-1 at second division Eibar in their first leg tie, not the best of results but probably enough for them to win through to the last eight in the return leg next Tuesday. Carlos Queiroz left all of his big name stars at home and put out a side packed with youngsters, with only Iker Casillas of his first choice players in the team. And the manager must have been glad that his Spanish number one was in the side as he produced a string of first class saves in the first quarter of the game to keep out the Basques, who themselves had made many changes from their normal line up. Madrid though took the lead though in virtually their first attack, under 20 international Juanfran making space down the left to find Guti for him to shoot low past Basauri. Cuevas headed a deserved equaliser for the home side from a corner on the stroke of half time, but there was no way past Casillas after that, even though Corredoira did hit the bar late on.
Valencia were the only ones of the top three to have any real problems, and they will have an uphill struggle in Pamplona next week after being held to a 2-2 draw by Osasuna. Angulo gave them the lead in the first half, and they seemed to be well in control until Curro Torres got himself sent off just before the break after picking up a second yellow card, presumably for insulting the referee. Even so Baraja had a goal disallowed after the restart, and soon afterwards the midfielder made it two from the penalty spot when Cruchaga brought down Marchena. But Webó got on the end of a wayward shot from Rivero to narrow the gap, and in the last minute substitute Aloisi fired a shot on the turn past Palop to give his side a more than even chance of another good cup run.
Celta Vigo threw a lifeline to their much questioned manager Miguel Angel Lotina when they came away from Málaga with a 0-1 win under their belts. Lotina put out a side packed with reserves against a full strength opponent, but the two teams cancelled each other out in a dull first half. The only goal came ten minutes in to the second half, Vagner picking up the ball and crashing a long shot in off the crossbar past Calatayud. The home side's only real chance of saving a draw came later on when a Duda free kick struck the post with Pinto beaten.
Two goals from forgotten striker Drulic helped Zaragoza to a 3-1 win over Betis, their first home victory since October. All the goals came in the second half, with Drulic starting things off by beating the offside trap and shooting under Prats only three minutes after the restart. Joaquín headed an equaliser from a Luis Fernández cross, but substitute Vellisca thundered a shot into the top corner of the net eight minutes from time and Drulic popped up again in the last minute to give his side a two goal cushion to take to Sevilla next week.
The other tie on Wednesday ended without goals, first division Valladolid holding second division Alavés without too many problems. Despite the result it was an open game, and either side could have scored before the interval. Things quietened down in the second half though, and the home side's challenge effectively ended with twenty minutes still to go when the referee sent off local defender Ochoa for a rigorous second yellow card. (07.01.04)
The third round of the Spanish cup opened up with what was supposed to be the pick of the bunch, Atlético Madrid against Deportivo La Coruña. However it failed to live up to it's billing, and the 30,000 or so poor souls who paid record prices to see the match went home disappointed after the game ended 0-0. The two managers took differing approaches, Manzano playing his strongest available eleven whereas Irureta put out a team which included several reserve players, clearly looking to take a draw back to the Riazor. There was little action though until the last five minutes of the game, when Amavisca and Djalminha went close for the Galicians and Fernando Torres brought a good save out of visiting keeper Munúa. Depor had achieved their objective, and they will be hoping to finish things off in the second leg in Coruña in a week's time. (06.01.04)