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First Division - Day Four

A sensational start for newly promoted Rayo Vallecano leaves them three points clear at the top of the first division for the first time ever in their history with twelve points out of a maximum twelve. This time their victims were Celta, with the Madrid team winning by 0-1 in Vigo. Celta were without two of their stars, McCarthy (playing with South Africa) and Israel's Revivo (absent for religious reasons), as well as Mazinho and Berges, injured since the start of the season. There were no excuses however, and Rayo were the better team. The goal came from Bolo in the 64th minute, shortly after he had come on substituting Clotet. Bolo had an incident packed half an hour, suffering an injury and being brought down by Cáceres in another attack near the end which lead to the sending off of the Celta defender. This is the first time that Rayo have won in Vigo, and the first time that they have won four matches in a row in the first division.

The tight calendar of matches for the Champions League is starting to take it's toll on the 3 Spanish teams taking part, with only one league point between Real Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia this weekend. Leaders Barcelona lost 2-1 to an improving Alavés after scoring first. Barça left Kluivert on the bench and were without Figo, suspended for three matches after his sending off last week. Their two replacements combined to give the away side the lead, Simao's cross being met by Dani on the edge of the goal area after 22 minutes. Alavés were looking the better side however, and their efforts were rewarded two minutes before half time when Hesp could only push out a shot from Morales, and Astudillo followed up to equalise. Van Gaal took off Litmanen at half time and replaced him with Luis Enrique, finally back in favour with the manager after being left out of the squad for the last two matches.It was to no avail, and with Alavés growing in confidence they took the lead after 70 minutes from a thunderous shot from Nan Ribera. The ex Espanyol youngster, playing further forward due to the absence through injury of Kodro, took advantage of a defensive mistake from Sergi to score from 30 metres. Van Gaal threw on Zenden and Kluivert and Mané brought on Julio Salinas and Dan Eggen for the last fifteen minutes, but the score did not move, sending 16,000 delirious supporters home happy. Alavés move up level with Barcelona on 9 points after a club record three wins in a row in the first division.

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