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First Division - Day Eleven

Rayo Vallecano kept their lead at the top of the Spanish first division despite losing at home 2-3 to Real Madrid. Referee Llonch Andreu caused controversy with his decisions which at times were inexplicable, although without entering into details the errors balanced out in the end. Rayo only made one change to their side, Alcázar coming back after suspension, but Madrid were forced to make several changes due to a string of injuries. Toshack decided to play with five defenders, bringing in Karanka, and McManaman returned on the left wing. Rayo were by far the better side in the first half, and they took the lead in the 21st minute when Ferrón finished off well after Hernández's long through ball was missed by Hierro and Karanka. Six minutes later they extended their lead, Bizzarri failing to hold on to a speculative shot by Cembranos, and Canabal, on loan to Rayo from Real Madrid, followed up to score from close range. The player is making a habit of scoring against his own club; he also scored against them last season when on loan to Alavés. At half time it looked as if Toshack was down and out, but Madrid came back in the second half with a fighting display to clinch the match five minutes from time with a brilliant goal by Raúl, who lifted the ball over the approaching Keller with little room to spare. Toshack brought on Guti for Karanka at half time, and Morientes pulled a goal back in the first minute of the second half, flicking Hierro's long ball past a defender, turning and running on to beat Keller from the edge of the area. Ten minutes later Morientes was sent off for insulting the referee after he failed to award a penalty, Llonch Andreu first showing a yellow card and then producing a red as the player continued to protest. Raúl was also close to being sent off but team mates pulled him back as he ran towards the linesman to protest after he disallowed a goal for offside (this time the decision was correct). Judging by the look on his face his protest would not have been very polite. Five minutes later the referee awarded a penalty for a foul by Cota on the Madrid forward, again a dubious decision, and Hierro stepped up to score. The Madrid defender appeared to injure himself, either in the goal or the celebrations afterwards and had to be replaced by Iván Campo, with Sanchis coming on for McManaman almost at the same time. In the end Raúl and Real Madrid came away with the points to save John Toshack for another day, and Rayo fell to their third home defeat of the season, all three coming when the team were leading the league.

Barcelona lost an opportunity to return to the top of the division after losing at home 1-2 to next to bottom club Málaga. Maybe the players were tired after their Champions League match midweek, but they were caught napping twice in the first quarter of an hour by the rapid Málaga forwards. Catanha gave a warning early on when he came close to scoring, and in the eighth minute Agostinho worked free on the left and shot powerfully past Arnau. Five minutes later they were two up, the referee playing the advantage rule after Abelardo fouled a Málaga forward outside the penalty area. Valcarce ran on to the loose ball and charged past the dumbstruck defence before shooting past Arnau. Abelardo was booked after the goal was given. In the 29th minute Barcelona pulled a goal back, Contreras only getting half a hand to Bogarde's shot through a crowded defence. Barcelona threw everything forward but Málaga still looked dangerous on the counterattack, and it was no surprise when Van Gaal pulled off an out of form Abelardo and replaced him with Simao. Only a goal behind at half time everyone expected Barcelona to come back, but Málaga defended well and the home side could not find a way through. Ronald de Boer came on for Luis Enrique and Zenden replaced Guardiola but it was no use, and Málaga's manager Joaquim Peiró breathed a sigh of relief at the end as the spectre of dismissal moved further away. With the three teams below them all winning Barcelona drop out of the Champions League spots to fifth, and Málaga move out of the relegation zone.

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