Manuel Labor reports.....
First Division
Second Division
International Matches
First Division - Day Thirty One

Sevilla 1 - Deportivo de La Coruña 3

Sevilla: Olsen; Héctor, Marchena, Hibic, Nando; Tsartas, Quevedo, Angel, Juric; Juan Carlos, Zalayeta. 4-4-2.
Deportivo: Songo'o; Manuel Pablo, Schurrer, Donato, Naybet; Mauro Silva, Flavio Conceiçao, Jokanovic; Víctor, Turu Flores; Makaay. 4-3-2-1.

Team changes: Sevilla: Tsartas for Tabaré / Depor: Naybet, Mauro, Flavio for Romero, Jaime, Fran.

0-1. 10. Jokanovic. Header following a corner from left.
0-2. 13. Jokanovic. Another header after cross from Manuel Pablo on the right.
1-2. 17. Juan Carlos. Header after Juric centred from left.
1-3. 86. Makaay. Picked up rebound in midfield and beat keeper as he came out.

Deportivo kept their place at the top of the table after defeating bottom club Sevilla in a match filled with controversy. Referee Mejuto González disallowed two goals for the home side which would have put them back in the match, and having suffered some bad refereeing decisions in recent weeks, the crowd ran amok, threatening to break down the referee's dressing room door before a police charge dispersed them. The first incident came just before half time, with Sevilla back in the match after Juan Carlos had pulled a goal back following the two scored by Jokanovic. Héctor appeared to have equalised after a goalmouth scramble, but Mejuto decided that there had been a foul on Songo'o and ruled out the goal. Having lost a possible victory last week against Bilbao in the last minute after the linesman incorrectly flagged for offside, the crowd were in mood for charity, and the atmosphere was already turning ugly as the teams changed ends. Things got much worse eight minutes from the end however, when Marchena followed up after Songo'o pushed out a Tsartas free kick, his goal being disallowed this time for a positional offside of a Sevilla player on the other side of the goal who was not interfering with play. With the crowd threatening to invade the pitch, Deportivo broke away and Makaay picked up a loose ball to run and score. After the final whistle Mejuto had to be shielded off the pitch, with a hail of bottles and other objects raining down on him. There was no sign of the controversy to come at the start of the game, with rival supporters organising events together in a gesture of friendship. Deportivo recovered Mauro Silva and Flavio in midfield after a one match suspension, but Djalminha was not considered fully fit and only made a token appearance in the last two minutes, with Jokanovic keeping his place in a more defensive formation. The ex Tenerife player made the most of his chance, scoring his first two goals of the season with two headers in three minutes. Sevilla came back quickly, with Tsartas back in favour with his manager starting the match, and before 20 minutes were up the score was already 1-2. Jesuli came on for Nando at half time, and Otero replaced Juan Carlos halfway through the half, with Jaime substituting Flavio for the visitors. A rainstorm in the second half put the damper on things, although Makaay was always a danger and Hibic was called upon to stop him on a couple of occasions before the Dutch striker wrapped things up at the end. Sevilla now are in big trouble, ten points away from safety at the bottom with only seven games remaining, and now with the threat of another ground closure hanging over them. Deportivo keep their two point lead over Barcelona, and for once have won away from home.

Barcelona 3 - Valencia 0

Barcelona: Hesp; Frank De Boer, Abelardo; Reiziger, Guardiola, Bogarde; Gabri, Cocu; Figo, Kluivert, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.
Valencia: Cañizares; Anglomá, Djukic, Pellegrino, Björklund, Carboni; Angulo, Farinós, Gerard; Oscar, Piojo López. 5-3-2.

Team changes: Barça: Reiziger, Gabri for Puyol, Ronald De Boer / Valencia: Björklund, Oscar, Claudio López for Kily, Ilie, Juan Sánchez.

1-0. 63. Bogarde. Header from edge of goal area after Figo corner.
2-0. 68. Kluivert. Laid on a plate by superb pass by Guardiola.
3-0. 92. Kluivert. From edge of area after Bogarde pulled ball back from left.

Barcelona picked up their game in the second half against Champions League rivals Valencia to take the three points and keep up the pressure on Deportivo at the top. Valencia have been the bête noire of Barcelona and their manager Louis Van Gaal for the last two seasons, winning five of their last seven games, with striker Claudio 'Piojo' López scoring no less than eleven times in twelve games against the Catalans. Piojo returned from playing and scoring for Argentina midweek, having missed the last league match due to a one match suspension. With Ilie still not recovered from the injury he picked up last week, López was joined in attack by ex Barcelona player Oscar, Cúper hoping that the return to his old hunting ground would inspire the player to greater things. Fearing the rapid Barcelona attack that has seen them win eight games in a row, the Valencia manager decided to play an extra man in defence, with Björklund coming in for the injured Kily González. Reiziger replaced the suspended Puyol at right back for the home side, with the specific role of marking Piojo, and Gabri replaced Ronald De Boer in midfield, who will be out for several weeks after picking up an injury last week. Cúper's defence kept Barça at bay throughout the first half, with the home team forwards limited largely to long shots at goal, which Cañizares had no trouble with. Valencia had At half time Van Gaal decided he didn't need all his defenders, and took off Abelardo, bringing on Litmanen in his place, with Gabri dropping back to a more defensive role. Meanwhile Cúper replaced Oscar with Juan Sánchez, the Catalan being applauded off the field by the home fans. Barcelona continued to dominate, with over two thirds of the ball in their possession, and they went ahead through Bogarde, sporting a new head of hair in a drastic change of appearance. The change to Bogarde is not only in his haircut however. Having been booed by fans every time he took to the field at the start of the season, he is now taking advantage of injuries to Zenden and Sergi to make the left back spot his, and he is finally being appreciated by this most critical of crowds. Having scored the first goal with a confident header, he set up the third goal for Kluivert at the end when he laid back a pass from the left. In between the two, Kluivert scored the best goal of the game, Guardiola sending the defence the wrong way with a superbly weighted pass which left the Dutch striker alone in front of Cañizares. In the end the result flattered Barcelona, although Valencia did only have a couple of shots at goal in the whole match, with Hesp's save from Gerard the only effort worthy of note. Barcelona stay two points behind Deportivo, but with Zaragoza winning as well they cannot give up. Valencia's defeat does not change their league position, and they stay sixth, although Celta are now only a point behind them. Both teams must now change their chips, with important Champions League matches on Wednesday night. Playing this match on Sunday rather than as originally planned on Saturday will give both a day less to recover, but then they are used to the rhythm of two games a week by now. It isn't going to be any easier from now to the end of the season, and then there is the Euro 2000 championship and the under 21 equivalent straight afterwards. There is no rest for the wicked, at least not when you are earning 25,000 US Dollars a week. Any volunteers?

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