| Manuel Labor reports.....
Copa del Rey
|First Division - Day Twenty|
Alavés 2 - Deportivo de La Coruña 1
Herrera; Contra, Téllez, Karmona, Torres Mestre; Morales, Desio,
Azkoitia, Magno; Nan Ribera; Salinas. 4-4-1-1.
Deportivo's bad run continued, and they now have only picked up one point out of the last twelve. They lost to the other Deportivo, Alavés, in a match that they should have at least drawn, and only keep their top spot thanks to the draw between the second and third paced teams Zaragoza and Barcelona. Irureta was forced to make three changes in defence, with Romero suspended, Manuel Pablo injured and Naybet away playing for his country in the African nations cup, and only Donato remained from last week's line up. Songo'o was however persuaded not to join Cameroon by the offer of a renewed one year contract if he stayed. Irureta's line up resembled a ten-pin bowling formation, with Fran preferred to Turu in a line of two with Djalminha behind Makaay. Alavés brought in Azkoitia in place of the suspended Pablo in midfield, and replaced Javi Moreno with Magno, Nan Ribera moving forward to support Julio Salinas. 'Julito' was replacing Kodro, still not fully fit, up front against another one of his old teams (when you get to be as old as him you've probably played in a few). The veteran striker opened the scoring ten minutes before half time from the penalty spot after Magno was brought down by Ramis, the goal being his 150th in the top division. La Coruña pulled level five minutes after the break through Makaay, who turned in Flavio's cross, but Alavés came forward again, and Morales headed the winner five minutes before full time. Alavés therefore kept up their winning home record in the first division against their visitors - they now have four out of four - and their first victory in five games takes them back up to seventh in the league, equal on points with sixth placed Bilbao.
Zaragoza 0 - Barcelona 0
Pablo, Lanna, Paco, Sundgren; Vellisca, Helguera, Garitano, Aragón;
Radimov; Milosevic. 4-4-1-1.
The second and third placed teams in the league cancelled each other out, failing to take full advantage of Deportivo's slip up, but closing up a point on the leaders. Barcelona were still without striker Kluivert, who had two appeals against his five match suspension turned down by the appeal committee, and kept ex Zaragoza (and Real Madrid, and Mallorca, etc., etc.,...) forward Dani up front. Rivaldo returned to his unpopular left wing position, with Figo switching back to the right, and Simao sitting it out on the bench. At least he had a closer view of the match than Frank De Boer, who was left out of the squad altogether. Van Gaal brought in Litmanen for Luis Enrique, but otherwise left the side unchanged, which meant no place in the starting line up for Guardiola, Sergi or Hesp either. Although Van Gaal's decision to leave Guardiola in particular on the bench has been heavily criticised, the fact is that opponents found it too easy to stop the league champions by smothering the club captain, their main play maker when he is in the side. Since Xavi has been playing in his place, they have gone from strength to strength. This time however they came up against one of the most on form clubs of the league, who are surprising everyone with their organised efficient play. Zaragoza fans knocked their side at the start of the season for not spending big money on new signings, but Txetxu Rojo has silenced his critics by putting together a winning team with a low budget. For this match he was however missing one of his shrewdest signings, Juanele, who was suspended, and brought in another, Vellisca in midfield, with Radimov moving forward to accompany Milosevic in an otherwise unchanged team. The brilliance of Kluivert and Juanele up front was sorely missed however, as the two highest scoring attacks in the league for once failed to get to grips with the opposing defences. Dani should have done better on a couple of occasions in the first half with the goal at his mercy, and Barcelona were lucky to get away with hand balls by Reiziger and Puyol in the penalty area which referee Pérez Burull either didn't see or decided were accidental. Simao and Luis Enrique came on during the second half for Dani and Litmanen, and Marcos Vales came on for Vellisca near the end. In the end the points were shared however, and Deportivo were let off the hook for now. There is plenty of time to go though, and either of these teams could be heading the league in a week or two.