First Division - Day Twenty One

Barcelona 1 - Racing de Santander 0

Barcelona: Arnau; Abelardo, Reiziger; Puyol, Xavi, Zenden; Litmanen, Cocu; Figo, Dani, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.
Racing: Lemmens; Mellberg, Neru, Txema, Sietes; Espina, Colsa; Munitis, Vivar Dorado, Amavisca; Salva. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: No change / Racing: Amavisca for Tais.

1-0. 18. Rivaldo. Strong header after centre from Zenden on left.

Rivaldo was presented with his award for European footballer of the year before this match, with manager Louis Van Gaal asking fans to give his player a big round of applause after declaring during the week that he wants to stay at Barcelona. Newspaper reports in Italy last week were quoting offers of 55 million Dollars from Lazio and others to sign up the Brazilian midfielder at the end of the season. Nobody can be sure that he will stay in the end however, with the deal worth around 30 million Dollars to the player himself, and Barcelona president José Luis Nuñez, a true Catalan, always on the look out for a good deal. At the moment however the player wants to forget next season and concentrate on this one, and after a couple of weeks out of the side after a bust up with the manager he is now firmly ensconced in the starting line up, which for the first time this season was unchanged. He came some way once again to adding to his value, scoring the only goal of the game in the first half with a well placed header which went in off the post in a move with Zenden which he started himself. Barcelona were not at their best however, and Racing were unlucky not to come away with at least a point after wasting the best chances of the match. In the tenth minute Munitis had the ball in the net, but his header was disallowed for offside, a close but correct decision. A shot from Txema hit the bar, and other efforts from the Racing forwards came close, but for once the league's top scorer Salva failed to score. Barcelona were also missing Kluivert up front, and Dani did his best, but without the silky touches of the suspended Dutch striker, whose appeals against his five match suspension were turned down. The trial by television decision is already having repercussions, with the local Catalan TV channel featuring a new spot each week showing film of fouls by other players, starting with Hasselbaink's elbow to Gurrutxaga's stomach (see report Atlético Madrid vs Real Sociedad). This could get out of hand. In any case, Barcelona are now up to second, three points behind Deportivo, with Racing dropping into the relegation area for the first time. They have the quality to do better, with two full internationals in their side, Munitis and now Salva, for the first time in their history.

Sevilla 0 - Celta 1

Sevilla: Olsen; Marchena, Hibic, Quevedo; Héctor, Francisco, Tsartas, Nando; Jesuli; Juan Carlos, Zalayeta. 3-4-1-2.
Celta: Pinto; Velasco, Cáceres, Sergio, Vivas; Makelele, Giovanella; Gustavo López, Karpin, Revivo; Turdó. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Sevilla: Olsen, Juan Carlos for Valencia, Prieto / Celta: Pinto, Vivas, Gustavo López for Dutruel, Djorovic, Mostovoi.

0-1. 83. McCarthy. Seconds after coming on, after a pass from Hoogendorp.

If Barcelona have the luck of champions, Sevilla have the bad luck of relegation candidates. They totally dominated this match against Celta, particularly in the second half, and should have won by a hat-full against one of the league's top clubs Celta. However they committed one sin, the failure to get the ball in to the net, and paid the price. Both teams lined up with changes in goal, with Norwegian giant and part time opera singer Frode Olsen making his debut for Sevilla, and Pinto replacing the much criticised Dutruel for the visitors. Juan Carlos returned after suspension for the home side, with new signing Vivas replacing the injured Djorovic and Gustavo López substituting for the suspended Mostovoi for Celta. Olsen proved to be a very good choice, and he kept Celta's strikers at bay single handedly in the first half. Late in the half referee Iturralde awarded a penalty for a foul on Velasco, and the big keeper guessed correctly, diving to his right to save Karpin's spot kick. The match started to deteriorate, with niggling fouls by both sides, and Marchena was lucky not to get sent off after clashing with Revivo. The second half was all Sevilla, and Iturralde correctly disallowed a goal from Juan Carlos for offside after Tsartas put him through. A few minutes later he missed the easiest chance of the match, shooting over the bar with an open goal in front of him. Inevitably then it was Celta who scored, Benni McCarthy coming on as substitute to score with almost his first kick of the match after another substitute, new signing Rick Hoogendorp put him through. In the last minute Zalayeta missed another golden opportunity, and Sevilla were sunk, dropping further into trouble now five points adrift of the second bottom club Real Sociedad. Celta move back up to fourth, level on points with Zaragoza. The only blot on their copy book was the sending off in the last minute of full back Velasco, who was returning to his old club and was celebrating his selection for Camacho's Spanish side for the first time.

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