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First Division - Day Five

Barcelona reserved several key players for Wednesday night's match with Arsenal and still managed to win convincingly against Betis by 4-1 to go top on goal average. Kluivert, Cocu, Bogarde, Ronald de Boer and Litmanen all started on the bench, with Figo out serving the second of his three match suspension. Simao, Zenden and Dani were all in the starting line up, joining Rivaldo up front, and Abelardo came back into the defence. Alfonso started up front for Betis for the first time this season, and Griguol played a four man attack, with Oli, Finidi and Denilson joining the Madrid born striker. All Barcelona's goals came in an eight minute period around half time, with Dani taking his opportunity to score one of the fastest hat-tricks for some time. It was Betis who scored first however, after Hesp inexplicably handled from Frank de Boer's back pass in the 37th minute. Alexis took a short indirect free kick to Karhan, who blasted the ball past Hesp and the defensive wall. Barcelona were ahead by halftime however, Dani firstly following up after Prats could only push out Rivaldo's long shot, and then striking again after Sergi's cross was flicked on by Luis Enrique. Two headed goals in a minute five minutes after the restart sealed the game for Barcelona, the first by Luis Enrique from Guardiola's free kick and the second from Dani after Luis Enrique had forced the ball up. With one eye on Wednesday's match Van Gaal took off Sergi, Rivaldo and Luis Enrique for Bogarde, Cocu and Litmanen. Betis's defender Luis Fernandez was sent off in the 48th minute for a second yellow card.

Rayo Vallecano's run of wins finally came to an end after they lost unluckily to Zaragoza by 0-1. Zaragoza's keeper Juanmi played the game of his life, saving a penalty from Llorens in the second half (awarded when Paco handled the ball in a defensive challenge) and keeping out all Rayo's efforts including a long shot from Luis Cembranos which was going in the top corner of the net. Rayo lined up with Bolo in place of Canabal up front, and French defender Hernández back after an injury. Zaragoza included José Ignacio instead of Santiago Aragón in midfield. Despite the result the match was incident packed, with Rayo driving forward in search of a goal and Zaragoza dangerous on the break. The penalty save at the start of the second half seemed to take the wind out of Rayo's sails, and Zaragoza took advantage to score shortly after the hour. Juanele, who had replaced Yordi early in the second half, crossed from the right and the Rayo defence failed to clear. The ball dropped to Savo Milosevic, who shot past Keller from close range. Ramos threw on Quinzinho up front to join Canabal and Michel who had come on earlier, but Juanmi held on to secure the three points for the away team. The match was televised live in Spain and in Europe in view of the interest that Rayo have generated, and Spain's manager José Antonio Camacho is considering calling up players such as Luis Cembranos for the upcoming international matches. Rayo are still second and need to pick themselves up for their next match against Racing. Zaragoza move up to eighth.

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