Manuel Labor reports.....
First Division
Second Division
European Competitions
International Matches
Match postponed from day 12, played Wednesday, 8th December

Alavés 2 - Racing Santander 1

Alavés: Herrera; Contra, Karmona, Téllez, Torres Mestre; Morales, Desío, Astudillo, Pablo; Javi Moreno, Kodro. 4-4-2.
Racing: Ceballos; Mellberg, Arzeno, Sietes; Manjarín, Espina, Ismael, Amavisca; Munitis, Vivar Dorado, Salva. 3-4-3.

Referee Japón Sevilla, a firm candidate for the Soccer-Spain white stick award, gave two controversial penalties in this match to leave both teams fuming as Alavés beat Racing by 2-1. Both penalties came in the second half, the first for Racing after Munitis was adjudged to have been brought down in the area (which Munitis himself admits was not a penalty). Salva's spot kick was pushed on to the bar by Herrera, but the striker followed up himself to score from the rebound, making him the league's equal top scorer with Milosevic on 15 goals. Then in the last minute of the match the referee awarded a penalty to Alavés for a foul in the area which, although hotly contested at the time, appeared to be a correct decision once the television pictures were analysed. Substitute Julio Salinas, playing his 400th match of his professional career, stepped up to score his 148th goal, making him far and away the top scorer still playing first division football. Earlier Karmona had given Alavés the lead in the eighth minute with a shot from close range. Three players, Arzeno and Munitis for Racing and Téllez for Alavés, expected to be suspended for the game after picking up their fifth bookings in the previous match, but the disciplinary committee moved the suspensions to the weekend, arguing that they did not apply to this match as it was postponed from a time before the fifth bookings were received. A strange logic, but then there's nowt so queer as folk, as my grandmother used to say. Alavés move up to seventh, with Racing dropping closer to the relegation zone. The only downside for Alavés was the loss of Astudillo through injury. He is likely to be out for up to two months.

First Division - Day Fifteen
Match played Saturday, 11th December

Sevilla 3 - Barcelona 2

Sevilla: Rabadja; Marchena, Hibic, Tabaré; Paco Mije, Francisco, Nando; Loren, Tsartas, Otero; Juan Carlos. 3-3-3-1.
Barcelona: Arnau; Frank de Boer, Dehu; Reiziger, Guardiola, Zenden; Luis Enrique, Cocu; Figo, Dani, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.

Barcelona were once again surprised by a relegation candidate, losing by the odd goal against a Sevilla side fighting for their place in the top flight. Sevilla manager Marcos Alonso was once again on an ultimatum to win, and although nerves got the better of him at the end (he was given a red card in the last minute by referee Megía Dávila for insulting a linesman), his job is safe for a few more days. Alonso made several changes to his team last week, surprisingly bringing in the unsettled Rabadja in goal and Juan Carlos up front. Marchena (recently praised by Franz Beckenbauer) and Francisco came back after suspension. Louis Van Gaal was without Kluivert, who injured himself in training, and Dani came in to replace him. Guardiola came back from his one match suspension in place of Xavi. Sevilla came out strongly, and were unlucky to have a goal by Juan Carlos disallowed in the second minute. Ten minutes later there was no doubt however, as the Sevilla striker took advantage of a precise through ball by Tsartas to turn the ball past Arnau. Barcelona equalised on the half hour, Dani finishing off after Rivaldo headed back Reiziger's cross. This was Dani's seventh league goal in eight games, and despite being a regular substitute he is the team's leading scorer. Van Gaal replaced Zenden, playing at left back, with Sergi at half time, and fifteen minutes later Barcelona were ahead, Luis Enrique being left with an easy task of scoring after Rivaldo headed the ball into his path. Barcelona decided to shut up shop, bringing on Xavi for Luis Enrique, and Sevilla threw on youngsters Víctor, making his home debut, and Jesuli to strengthen their attack. This time the home team manager got it right, and twelve minutes from the end Juan Carlos got a well deserved equaliser, chesting down Otero's long pass and coolly beating Arnau. Four minutes from time Víctor saw his dreams come true, scoring the winner from another defence splitting pass from Tsartas, to steal the three points for his team. The Sánchez Pijuan stadium continues to be bogey ground for Barcelona. They have only won there twice now in twenty visits, and in 1986 Terry Venables' side lost the European cup final to Steau Bucarest. Barcelona drop down the table to sixth, and Sevilla move a little bit closer to salvation.

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