First Division - Day Twenty Two

Espanyol 1 - Barcelona 1

Espanyol: Mora; Cristóbal, Nando, Pochettino, Toledo; Velamazán, Galca, Sergio, Arteaga; Benítez, Tamudo. 4-4-2.
Barcelona: Arnau; Abelardo, Bogarde; Puyol, Xavi, Zenden; Litmanen, Cocu; Figo, kluivert, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.

Team changes: Espanyol: No change / Barcelona: Bogarde, Kluivert for Reiziger, Dani.

1-0. Benítez. Diving header after Sergio free kick from the right.
1-1. Kluivert. Headed over Mora after Rivaldo headed on cross from Zenden

Patrick Kluivert came back after a five match suspension to score the equaliser for Barcelona in the Catalan city derby at the Montjuic Olympic stadium. Kluivert was sensationally suspended on video evidence at the initiative of the disciplinary committee after an aggression on Rayo Vallecano's Cota, setting what some sports commentators considered to be a dangerous precedent. The situation was repeated this week, with Atlético Madrid's Hasselbaink being banned for two matches under similar circumstances, and there are fears of more to come. Kluivert's return was also marked by controversy as the Dutch striker clashed with Espanyol's Nando, leaving him with a bloody nose. This time however most people considered that it was accidental. Bogarde was the other change in the visitors starting line up after Reiziger damaged vertebrae in a driving accident during the week. He apparently stopped at a red traffic light (a dangerous practise in Spain), and someone ran into the back of him. Espanyol's new manager Paco Flores decided not to change a winning team, and it seemed to be working at the beginning as Benítez gave his side the lead with his seventh goal of the season. This was the first goal that Barcelona had let in for over three matches, ending their best run for eight years. On the stroke of half time however Kluivert appeared to head the equaliser, a real blow to the home side so close to the break. The second half belonged to the goalkeepers, with Mora in particular in excellent form, and the points were shared. Barcelona lost their opportunity to go back to the top of the league, and they drop behind Zaragoza on goal average. Espanyol continue their revival and are fourteenth.

Zaragoza 2 - Sevilla 1

Zaragoza: Juanmi; Pablo, Paco, Aguado, Sundgren; Helguera, Aragón; Juanele, Garitano, Radimov; Yordi. 4-2-3-1.
Sevilla: Olsen; Héctor, Marchena, Hibic, Prieto, Nando; Tabaré, Tsartas, Francisco; Juan Carlos, Zalayeta. 5-3-2.

Team changes: Zaragoza: Sundgren, Garitano, Yordi for Lanna, Vellisca, Milosevic / Sevilla: Prieto, Tabaré for Quevedo, Jesuli.

1-0. 04. Juanele. Garitano's pass in front of defence and Juanele headed home.
2-0. 54. Hibic (own goal). Aguado glancing header from corner turned in by Hibic.
2-1. 76. Tsartas. Spectacular free kick in top nearside corner of goal.

Zaragoza moved back to second place with a laboured victory against bottom club Sevilla. With Milosevic sitting this one out after being suspended for accumulating five yellow cards, only Juanele showed any initiative in front of goal, and he gave his side the lead early in the game when he got in front of the defence to head home a pinpoint cross from Garitano. Milosevic's replacement, Yordi, did not take advantage of the rare opportunity to make his mark, completing a disappointing night by missing two very easy chances at the end of the game. The home side did enough to take the three points however, and when Aguado's header entered the net off Hibic (it remains to be seen whether the referee attributed the goal to Aguado or Hibic), the match was effectively over. Txetxu Rojo took advantage of an injury to Radimov (carried off on a stretcher after a tackle by Prieto) to put on an additional defensive player, Toro Acuña, who was returning after injury. The only person who didn't give up was Sevilla's Greek international Tsartas, and after giving fair warning with a free kick from the right which hit the top far corner of the goal post, he went one better ten minutes later with another kick from virtually the same spot which this time entered the net in the top nearside corner, leaving new international keeper Juanmi no chance. That was the end of it however, as Zaragoza battened down the hatches to take their first win for some time after going three games without scoring a goal. Marcos Alonso did play one last card, putting on 16 year old forward José Antonio Reyes for the last five minutes to join youngsters Víctor and Jesuli, who had already come on earlier in the half. Reyes became the third youngest player to make his debut in the first division, only beaten by Sansón and Puche II, and one year younger than Raúl and Barcelona's Nano, who both played their first games at 17 years 4 months. Zaragoza scrape past Barcelona by one goal on goal average to move within two points of floundering Deportivo. They will have Milosevic back for their tricky cup second leg match on Thusday at Real Madrid, but must be concerned that he will almost certainly be leaving the club at the end of the season to go to Italy. Sevilla are now seven points adrift at the bottom, and although one admires them for keeping faith with their manager, they need to do something drastic if they are to remain in the top flight for next season.

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