| Manuel Labor reports.....
|First Division - Day Nineteen|
Espanyol 0 - Deportivo de La Coruña 0
Cristóbal, Navas, Nando, Lopo; Velamazán, Galca, Roger, De Lucas;
Serrano, Tamudo. 4-4-2.
The millennium bug appears to have bitten leaders Deportivo, who dropped two more points in a dull score-less draw at Espanyol. Although they still finish the first half of the season as 'winter champions', an honorary title with no trophy attached, they have now only picked up one point out of the last nine and are starting to see the gap over the teams below them whittled away. Deportivo were virtually at full strength, with Donato reappearing in the centre of defence for Schurrer and Mauro Silva coming back in to midfield in place of the injured Víctor. Espanyol were without Sergio, suspended for three matches following his sending off last week (pending an appeal), but recovered Navas, back from flu, on the left side of defence. Velamazán reappeared in midfield after serving a one match suspension, with Arteaga returning to the substitutes' bench alongside new signing Manel. Both defences dominated the game, with Songo'o saving from De Lucas and Mora stopping a header from Jokanovic in the first 20 minutes. Chances were few and far between however, and the only real opportunities in the second half were a miss by Makaay in front of the goal and a point blank save by Songo'o from Serrano. David García made his debut for the home side in the second half, the latest of a crop of promising youngsters from the Espanyol stables, with another home grown player, Vates, remaining on the bench. Benítez and Arteaga also came on for the Catalans in an attempt to take the three points. Irureta decided his team was never going to score and settled for the draw, replacing strikers Turu Flores and Makaay with Fran and Iván Pérez late in the game, and wasted time with a third change, Fernando for Jokanovic, in the last minute. An unsatisfactory result for both sides, leaving Espanyol in 12th place, but still only two points above the relegation spots.
Zaragoza 4 - Valencia 2
Pablo, Lanna, Paco, Sundgren; Helguera, Garitano, Aragón, Radimov;
Juanele, Milosevic. 4-4-2.
A six goal thriller in the Romareda stadium with Zaragoza eventually running out 4-2 winners. The match brought together the best two defences in the country, with Palop and Juanmi currently heading the goalkeeping tables (Palop in fact is having such a good season that he is keeping Spain's first choice keeper Santiago Cañizares on the bench). It was not however a day for defences, as gaps appeared all over which both sets of forwards exploited. The first goal came halfway through the first half when referee López Nieto awarded a penalty to Valencia for a less than clear hand ball by Paco. Mendieta converted the spot kick. Less than ten minutes later the home side were in front however, with first Juanele heading in Garitano's free kick, and then top scorer Milosevic adding another from a corner, his header taking a deflection off Mendieta and wrong footing Palop. Ten minutes after half time López Nieto sent off Valencia's Argentinian defender Pellegrino for a second bookable offence (the only sending off over the weekend), and Zaragoza immediately took advantage to move further ahead, with Pablo and Milosevic working an excellent move to set up Radimov for his first goal since returning to the club after a loan period with Dynamo Moscow. Cúper decided to bring on Farinós for Milla and 'Cobra' Ilie for Juan Sánchez. Ilie had been out of favour with his manager since returning three days late from the Christmas break but his skills were needed here, and within three minutes the changes worked, Mendieta getting his second of the match with a shot through a crowd of players from the edge of the area. Their joys were short lived however, as Juanele restored the two goal gap after Milosevic's effort was blocked. The veteran forward, signed this season from Tenerife, was the star of the match and is the most on-form player in the side at the moment, and his presence will be missed next week as a fifth yellow card means he misses the game with Barcelona. His place will probably be taken by Jamelli, who came on as a late substitute after being out for a month with an injury. Zaragoza close the gap with Deportivo to four points with this victory, whereas Valencia drop out of the UEFA cup spots down to eighth.