Manuel Labor reports.....
First Division
Second Division
European Competitions
First Division - Day Eight

Rayo Vallecano took advantage of slip ups by Barcelona and Celta to move back to the top of the first division, with a 0-1 victory at Alavés. Juande Ramos brought in Clotet in the Rayo defence in place of the suspended captain Cota, and included Canabal, who played for Alavés last season, for Michel II. Alavés manager Mané included Dan Eggen in defence in place of Karmona and Magno in place of Nan Ribera, keeping Kodro in attack even though the Bosnian striker has yet to score this season. This was the first time that the two sides have coincided in the first division, their last meeting being in 1998 when Alavés beat Rayo 3-0 to win promotion from the second division. The only goal of the game was scored by Bolo ten minutes from time after a pass from Luis Cembranos. Mané had earlier brought on Julio Salinas for Desío in an attempt to break the deadlock, Julio having scored eight goals past former Rayo teams in his earlier days at Barcelona and other clubs. Kodro had to leave the pitch with a mild concussion late in the second half. Keeper Kasey Keller kept another clean sheet and is now leading the 'Zamora' goalkeepers trophy table together with Zaragoza's Juanmi, both having only conceded four goals in their eight games to date. Rayo are now two points clear of Barcelona at the top, but manager Ramos does not have any illusions about his current position. "Our objective this season is still to avoid relegation, and these early results give us a good cushion to work with when the hard times arrive". Some cushion! Ramos has knitted together a good hard-working side without recognised stars who work together as a team. They should give a few more teams a shock before the season is over.

Leaders Barcelona left Guardiola, Luis Enrique and Reiziger at home, and were without Kluivert who was suspended for four matches for insulting the referee in his last match, and Frank de Boer and Dehu, who had still not recovered from injuries. Xavi, Litmanen, Bogarde and Dani came in to the side, with Ronald de Boer continuing at right back. Iván Rocha was back from suspension for Numancia, who reduced the width of the pitch by one metre on each side to try and contain the Barcelona wing play. Their captain Octavio was the only survivor of the only time that the two teams met at Los Pajaritos, three years ago in the cup, when Numancia were in the second division B. The result on that occasion was a draw, and history repeated itself on this their first ever league meeting, the match ending 3-3 after Barcelona had been 0-2 up with seven minutes to go. Figo opened the scoring after five minutes from a well struck free kick from outside of the area, and Litmanen added the second in the 69th minute after Abelardo had headed on Figo's corner. Van Gaal had already substituted Rivaldo with Puyol at half time and Ronald de Boer with Simao shortly afterwards, and he brought on Zenden for Figo shortly after the second goal. He would have done better replacing Bogarde. The big Dutch defender single-handedly gave the game to Numancia, committing a penalty on Rubén Navarro seven minutes from time which Ojeda converted, and then losing the ball to Ojeda four minutes later for Rubén to take his pass and dribble round Hesp. It looked as though Barça had stolen it two minutes later when Dani headed his team in front from Zenden's cross, but up popped Bogarde again to give away a free kick just outside the area, getting himself sent off for a second bookable offence in the process. Iñaki took the free kick, and ex Espanyol midfielder Pacheta rose above the defence to head past Hesp. The 9,000 fans in the packed stadium went wild, their unbeaten home record intact. Barcelona went home to prepare for their Tuesday night match at Wembley against Arsenal.

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