| Manuel Labor reports.....
|First Division - Day Twenty Six|
Deportivo de La Coruña 2 - Mallorca 1
Manuel Pablo, Donato, Naybet, Romero; Flavio, Mauro Silva; Víctor,
Djalminha, Fran; Makaay. 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Depor: No change. / Mallorca: Lauren, Carlos for Armando, Serrizuela.
Deportivo moved six points clear at the top of the first division with a comfortable victory over Mallorca. On paper they should have won easily, with the best home form in the league against a team with one of the worst away records, having only picked up one victory and six points in thirteen matches. However Mallorca have had bad luck with injuries and have also had many players on international duty during that time, and they finally recovered almost all of their first choice players for this match. The only player still not back in the squad was Biagini, still injured, and Lauren and Carlos returned to the starting line up, the former after winning the Africa cup with Cameroon. Deportivo manager Javier Irureta had injury worries, but with Djalminha and Makaay both passing late fitness tests he was able to play an unchanged side. As it was, it was those two players who made the difference, with Djalminha passing to Makaay for the first goal, and the two players reversing roles for the second. Both teams went close in the first half, with Leo Franco saving from Makaay, and Carlos and Tristán shooting wide when they should have hit the target. With both teams thinking about their difficult UEFA cup ties next Thursday (Deportivo visit Arsenal and Mallorca are at home to Monaco), both managers made substitutions in the second half. Eto'o, Ibagaza and ex Deportivo player Armando came on for Carlos, Chichi Soler and Olaizola for the visitors and Turu Flores, Pauleta and Jaime replaced Fran, Makaay and Víctor for the home side. Mallorca came forward towards the end, and Donato cleared off the line from Stankovic five minutes from the end. Diego Tristán scored his fourteenth league goal of the season and his sixth in five games, but it came too late to be any real threat. Mallorca drop to ninth, and must be grateful that they have a full squad once again given the return of European competitions.
Real Madrid 3 - Barcelona 0
Casillas; Michel Salgado, Karanka, Hierro, Roberto Carlos; Geremi, Redondo,
Guti; Raúl; Anelka, Morientes. 4-3-1-2.
Team changes: Madrid: Roberto Carlos, Redondo, Raúl, Anelka, Morientes for Dorado, Iván Campo, Iván Helguera, McManaman, Zárate / Barcelona: Zenden for Litmanen.
Real Madrid confirmed that are back in contention for the league championship with a convincing victory against perennial rivals Barcelona. All week the local papers have been full of this match, which was seen live on television by an estimated 320 million viewers. Real Madrid's medical staff had been working overtime to get their key strikers fit in time, and in the end Morientes and new father Raúl just made it together with Anelka, returning for the first time since his injury in the club world championship in Brazil. Redondo and Roberto Carlos returned after a one match suspension, with the Brazilian full back returning together with Rivaldo from a gruelling trip to Thailand to play for their country midweek. International duties took their toll of the Barcelona side, with six Dutch players playing for Holland against Germany on Wednesday amongst others. That was no excuse for Barcelona's poor performance however, as Madrid controlled the game from start to finish. The free kick from Roberto Carlos, timed at 67 mph, did move wickedly in the air, although Arnau should probably have done better as he misread the flight and could only touch the ball ineffectively as it entered the net. Anelka added the second with his first goal in the league, Barcelona claiming that Morientes had controlled the ball with his hand in the goalmouth scramble leading up to the goal. The visitors came back, with Ronald De Boer failing to connect from close range, Rivaldo hitting the bar from a free kick and Casillas saving at the feet of Luis Enrique in the first half. At half time Van Gaal inexplicably replaced Bogarde with Xavi, and five minutes into the second half Madrid wrapped it up, Morientes taking a pass from Michel Salgado and leaving Abelardo for dead before shooting past a despairing Arnau. Three minutes later Raúl could have added to the humiliation, his lob over Arnau's head into the net being disallowed by the referee. Both managers made changes already thinking about their upcoming Champions League games midweek, Guardiola finally coming on for Luis Enrique and Dani replacing Kluivert for Barcelona, and Del Bosque bringing on Sanchis, McManaman and Iván Campo for Morientes, Anelka and Roberto Carlos. Six minutes from time Guti was sent off by referee Ansuategui Roca when he picked up a second yellow card for a tackle on Puyol. Madrid move two points above Barcelona into second place pending Sunday's matches, but more importantly they have left their eternal enemies sorely wounded and their pride badly dented. The European matches midweek will be a test of character for both. Right now Madrid are on top of the world, but as they say a week can be a long time in football. Same time, same place, a week from now.....