| Manuel Labor reports.....
|First Division - Day Thirty Two|
Deportivo de La Coruña 4 - Atlético Madrid 1
Manuel Pablo, César, Donato, Schurrer; Mauro Silva, Flavio
Conceiçao, Jokanovic (Jaime 55'); Víctor (Scaloni 85'), Turu
Flores (Fernando 77'); Makaay. 4-3-2-1.
Team changes: Depor: César for Naybet / Atlético: Capdevila, Solari for Toni, Lardín.
Deportivo threw down the gauntlet to Barcelona and the other chasing teams with a comfortable victory against an Atlético Madrid side that look more and more like going down. Irureta surprised everyone by leaving Djalminha on the bench for the second game in a row, keeping Jokanovic in the side as a reward for his two goals last week. With Naybet on international duty with Morrocco, César finally got his chance to get back in the side, with Schurrer switching to left back. Capdevila and Solari returned to Antic's side, with Baraja returning to take a place on the bench after a long period out of favour. The long drawn out legal action against Jesus Gil has taken its toll on the Madrid side, and their defence once again suffered from lapses of concentration, with players understandably more concerned about what the future holds than the game in hand. With players such as Turu Flores and Roy Makaay at the top of their form at the moment that can be fatal, and the two strikers created havoc, scoring three goals between them by half time. The defence seemed to go to sleep for the first goal as the ball bounced up in the penalty area after Donato's free kick, and Turu took advantage to stick out a foot and score. The second goal came when Víctor's cross was deflected by Santi, with Makaay unmarked on the far post in an easy position to score, and Makaay got the third after racing around Molina, who came too far out of his goal with no cover near at hand. Antic made two changes at half time, and the introduction of Paunovic and in particular Baraja changed the tone of the match. Hasselbaink got his customary goal with a shot so strong that it seemed to pass right through Songo'o, his 23rd of the season in the league. That takes him to top scorer, quite a feat for a player from a team next to bottom in the league. Kiko could have added a second with a header, and Irureta decided to make changes, with Jaime coming on for Jokanovic to strengthen defence, and then Scaloni and Fernando entering for Víctor and Turu. Antic replaced a tired Kiko with Correa, a move which upset the Atleti striker who left the field refusing to shake hands with his manager. Five minutes from time Scaloni unleashed a long ball from the right back position for Makaay, who set off after it from just inside his own half. The defence chased back hopelessly as the Dutch striker galloped ahead, took the ball round the keeper and turned it into the empty net for a well-earned hat trick. With Barcelona and Zaragoza dropping points, Deportivo moved five points ahead at the top with six matches to go. Atlético stay on 32 points, four points away from safety and every day getting closer to the second division. This week the judge announced that the legal administration would continue for the time being until 'legal order was restored', despite rumours that Luis Manuel Rubí would be replaced. The appeal by Jesus Gil to end the intervention was turned down. Meanwhile the last instalment of the transfer money from the sale of Prodan to Rangers will probably save the club from bankruptcy for now.
Barcelona 0 - Mallorca 3
Frank De Boer, Abelardo; Puyol, Xavi, Bogarde; Gabri (Limanen 46'), Cocu; Figo,
Kluivert (Dani 73'), Rivaldo (Simao 62'). 2-3-2-3.
Team changes: Barcelona: Puyol, Xavi for Reiziger, Guardiola / Mallorca: Diego Tristán for Carlos.
Barcelona's season went heavily off the rails this week after they lost their second game in four days. On paper there should have been no problem, with the Catalans on a run of nine victories in a row before losing to Chelsea midweek, and Mallorca only picking up two points from their last six games. However Fernando Vázquez's team were in desperate need of points to halt their slide down the table, and Vázquez himself was on an ultimatum from his board of directors after last week to improve results or he would be out. The star of the match was Camerooni international Samuel Eto'o, on loan from Real Madrid to the end of the season, and the young striker scored two and made the third as the visitors humiliated their theoretically superior rivals. Eto'o had kept his place after scoring his first goal for the club last week, with Diego Tristán coming in for Carlos after serving a one match suspension. Barcelona recovered Puyol after his one match suspension in the league, but captain Guardiola was still not fully fit, and Xavi took his place as he had done in the Champions League match midweek. The under 21 international is still learning however, and playing in a three man midfield he was unable to direct the orchestra in quite the same way as Guardiola. Mallorca's strong point has always been their defence, and they sat back waiting for Barcelona to bring the game to them, relying on their speed on the break for their sporadic attacks. The tactic worked to perfection, and they took the lead in the fourteenth minute when Tristán set up Eto'o with a headed pass, the striker getting ahead of Abelardo before beating Hesp with a low shot. Three minutes later Nadal was forced to leave the field with what looked like a rib injury, and he was taken to the local clinic for tests, Fernando Niño taking his place. When Barcelona did get past the tight defence Leo Franco was up to it, and he saved from Kluivert and then from Figo, by far the home side's most dangerous forward. Mallorca will have a problem next year when Carlos Roa returns from his self imposed exile for religious reasons, with three first class Argentinian goalminders on their books. Right now Franco is keeping out Argentina's first choice keeper Mono Burgos, who himself replaced Roa in the national side. The second half followed very much along the lines of the first, with Van Gaal bringing on the more experienced Litmanen for Gabri at half time. Mallorca's counter-attacks were lethal, and after Carlos missed an easy chance just minutes after coming on for Diego Tristán, Eto'o scored his second and then made another for the ex Barcelona midfielder Carreras in a period of three minutes. The crowd started to leave, and those that didn't whistled and waved off-white handkerchiefs. They have grudgingly accepted that they have to bring in foreign mercenaries if they are to win the big trophies, but they don't like it if they don't succeed. Next Wednesday they play their first leg of their cup semi-final, and anything other than a victory against Atlético Madrid will be considered a failure. It's a hard life at the top.