First Division - Day Six

The match of the day was the game between two of the Champions League teams, Real Madrid and Valencia. Manager John Toshack had never been beaten at home in the league in his two spells with Real Madrid, and Madrid were lying third in the league. Valencia had only won one point all season, but had managed good results in the Champions League. Toshack brought back Ilgner in goal after a long injury, and also played Geremi at right back in place of Salgado and Seedorf on the right flank in place of the injured McManaman. Balic was away on international duty with Bosnia and Guti was also out with a shoulder injury. Cúper brought in Ilie up front in place of Sánchez, and replaced injured goalie Cañizares with Palop. The turning point of the game came as early as the eighth minute, when Roberto Carlos stopped Gerard's header with his arm on the goal line, and referee Iturralde sent him off. Mendieta scored from the resulting penalty, and to make matters worse, the Brazilian will now miss Madrid's match at Barcelona in 10 days time. With Roberto Carlos off, Ilie found more space on the right, and Madrid found themselves two down halfway through the first half after Gerard rose above Ilgner to head in the Romanian forward's cross. Piojo López added a third before half time when Palop's long kick bounced over Iván Helguera's head and López poked the ball past Ilgner. Toshack brought on Karanka at half time for Helguera to try and close the gap on the right, and a minute later Madrid pulled one back, Morientes following up after Raúl´s shot ballooned over Palop. Madrid were back to 2-3 in the 64th minute when the same two players combined for Morientes to add his second, and the home side threw everything forward to push for the equaliser. It did not come however, and Toshack's home record finally fell after 34 games. Madrid drop down to eighth, and Valencia climb off the bottom, ahead of Atlético Madrid on goal average. Toshack's nerves failed, and he was shown the red card together with two of his technical staff after protesting a foul by Valencia, meaning that he too will not be on the bench for the match at the Nou Camp.

Celta moved up to third with a narrow 1-0 victory over a Mallorca side who had obviously come for a point. The match had nothing in common with last season's epic encounter between the two sides which finished with a 4-2 scoreline. Both sides were tired after Thursday UEFA cup matches, and Mallorca's trip across Spain to Vigo was gruelling, especially after they missed a connecting flight. Fernando Vázquez's game plan was to close down Celta's creative play, and but for a moment of inspiration from the Celta midfield, it would have worked. Once again it was their midfield general Mostovoi, still not fully fit after a groin operation, who made the difference. The Russian, on at half time for Gustavo López, combined with fellow countryman Karpin for the latter to score the only goal of the match five minutes in to the second half. Celta look like challenging once again for high honours, and their new signings are fitting in well. Mallorca however are still trying to find the right combination, and Vázquez has to work with a squad that was signed by his predecessor.

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