| Manuel Labor reports.....
|First Division - Day Twenty Nine|
Barcelona 2 - Deportivo de La Coruña 1
Frank De Boer, Abelardo; Puyol, Guardiola, Bogarde; Ronald De Boer, Cocu; Figo,
Kluivert, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.
Team changes: Barça: Guardiola for Xavi / Depor: Mauro Silva for Jokanovic.
Barcelona's victory over leaders Deportivo opened the league wide up and left last year's champions just two points behind their rivals. Having secured the leadership of their group in the Champions League, Van Gaal could play his first choice players without thinking about next Tuesday's game in Prague, and he brought back Guardiola in the 'organiser' position to direct play. Javier Irureta could count on Mauro Silva and Naybet, both back after suspension, and although he included the Brazilian, he opted to keep Schurrer in defence and leave the Moroccan on the bench. The Camp Nou stadium was full to see this match which had attracted much interest during the week, the 98,000 crowd (including Dutch national team manager Frank Rijkard) a far cry from the 30,000 who turned up to see Barça play Hertha Berlin midweek. On paper Barcelona were favourites to take the three points, and in fact Deportivo had never won against the Catalans in their home town in all their history. However Depor are the team on form, and they attacked first, with Makaay and Romero going close in the first fifteen minutes. Gradually Barcelona took control, and after Songo'o had caught one cross from Figo from the right, he could do nothing about the next a minute later, Kluivert rising to head the ball firmly past the keeper and in to the net. A few minutes later Guardiola opened up the defence with a long pass, and Rivaldo was a little fortunate as his shot was deflected by Songo'o in to the net off the post. Just before half time Djalminha fell in the penalty area after a tackle by Bogarde, but referee Medina Cantalejo waved play on. Deportivo president Lendoiro was furious after the match, claiming that not only was it a penalty, but also that Bogarde should have received a second yellow card and have been sent off. In fact Bogarde had not even received one yellow up to that point, as Medina had mistakenly given a yellow card to Rivaldo earlier on for a foul actually committed by the big Dutch defender. Deportivo did score just after the restart, Flavio restoring the equilibrium on the luck stakes with shot from outside of the area which bounced up after hitting Frank De Boer and carried over Hesp's head. Irureta brought on Pauleta for Víctor on the hour mark, but lost Djalminha with a leg injury fifteen minutes from time which could keep him out for a month. Turu Flores came on in his place, and Scaloni replaced Makaay. Van Gaal brought on Déhu and Xavi for the Abelardo and Guardiola, both injured, and gave Gagri another run out in place of Kluivert for the last ten minutes. In the last couple of minutes Medina sent off two Deportivo players, first Mauro Silva for a second bookable offence, and then Pauleta for a silly push and trip on Déhu from behind. With Flavio also picking up a fifth yellow card of the season, Irureta will be without four key players for the next home match with Oviedo. It shouldn't matter against a team who have not won away all season, but of greater concern is how they are going to maintain their momentum after this defeat. Five teams are currently in the running for the championship, and with today's result anybody could win.
Atlético Madrid 1 - Real Madrid 1
Molina; Gaspar, Ayala, Gamarra, Capdevila; Aguilera, Bjebl, Hugo Leal, Solari;
Kiko, Hasselbaink. 4-4-2.
Team changes: Atlético: Gaspar, Capdevila, Hugo Leal for Toni, Paunovic, Valerón / Madrid: Karanka, Sanchis for Hierro, Geremi.
The Madrid derby ended in a dull draw, with both teams seemingly frightened to lose this match. Atlético needed a win to keep the wolves from the door, and Madrid wanted the three points to keep up their challenge on the leaders. In the end neither got what they wanted, and a point was little consolation for either. With Valerón suspended, Antic was brought back Hugo Leal in midfield. Aguilera's injury last week turned out to be less serious than thought, and he moved up to midfield in place of Paunovic, Gaspar covering at right back. Capdevila returned in the other full back position in place of Toni. Del Bosque decided to add an extra man in defence to counter the threat of Hasselbaink and Kiko, the versatile Helguera playing behind Iván Campo and Karanka, who replaced the suspended Hierro. Veteran defender Sanchis came in to midfield in place of Geremi. Atlético did most of the attacking but the two strikers did not have their shooting boots on, and when they did get one on target, such as a free kick from Solari, Casillas was up to it. It was Real Madrid who scored first however, Raúl's deep pass to Salgado setting up the full back for a shot. Molina saved, but the ball broke loose to Morientes, who only had to stick it in to the net from close range. Atlético got their just reward on half time however, when a touch of genius from Kiko left Solari free coming in on the far post to score. Mena came on for the injured Gaspar at half time, with Aguilera dropping back, and the Argentinian midfielder added a spark to the home side. The two blotted out Roberto Carlos on Real's left, and Mena was active in several of Atlético's attacks, with two shots at goal late in the game. Sanchis was forced to leave the field in the 68th minute with a leg injury which may keep him out for four weeks, Geremi returning in his place. McManaman came on for Guti seven minutes from time, and Roberto replaced Hugo Leal in the last minute as Atlético wasted time waiting for the game to end. Atlético stay in the relegation zone near the bottom, having gone seven games without a victory, and Real lose a bit of ground on Barcelona, their closest rival for the championship. Next Wednesday they have an important game in the Champions League against Rosenborg in Norway which they need to win. The season is already proving to be a long one for them, and tiredness is their greatest enemy. They have to keep going though, and they must be ruing that one of their new reinforcements, Nicolas Anelka, is currently suspended for 45 days by the club for refusing to train. A bad attitude by the player, but could the club have done more to help him to settle in? Only time will tell.