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First Division - Day Thrity Three

Rayo Vallecano 2 - Deportivo de La Coruña 0

Rayo: Lopetegui; Cota, Amaya, Hernández, Alcázar; Helder, Poschner, Pablo Sanz, Michel I (Estibariz 80'); Luis Cembranos (Ferrón 65'); Bolo (Michel II 85'). 4-4-1-1.
Deportivo: Songo'o; Manuel Pablo, César, Donato, Schurrer (Fran 82'); Mauro Silva, Jokanovic (Pauleta 60'), Flavio Conceiçao; Víctor (Djalminha 60'), Turu Flores; Makaay. 4-3-2-1.

Team changes: Rayo: Pablo Sanz, Cembranos for Llorens, Canabal / Depor: Naybet for Donato.

1-0. 22. Michel I (penalty). After foul by César on Cembranos.
2-0. 81. Ferrón. First time shot after Manuel Pablo failed to clear.

Deportivo missed out on a golden opportunity to open up an unassailable lead at the top of the first division at Vallecas in Madrid, falling by two goals to nil to a tricky Rayo Vallecano team who are recovering their early season form. After second and third placed teams Barcelona and Zaragoza had been beaten the day before, Depor started the day five points clear with only five games to go to the end of the season after this match. With home games against Real Sociedad, Zaragoza and Espanyol, and away games at Celta and Racing remaining, an eight point lead would have meant they would only have to win their home matches to be sure of the title. Contrary to press reports, Irureta decided to maintain the successful formation he has employed away from home, with a line of three rather than his usual two in front of the back four. Jokanovic kept his place therefore alongside Flavio and Mauro Silva, with Djalminha once again condemned to the substitutes' bench. The one change the Coruña manager did make was to rest veteran midfielder-turned-defender Donato, bringing back Moroccan international Naybet alongside César in the centre of defence. Rayo were fresh from their first ever victory in Bilbao last week, and Juande Ramos only made two changes, Pablo Sanz and Luis Cembranos coming in for the injured Llorens and Canabal. There were rumours too of third party incentives being offered to the Rayo players by Deportivo's promotion rivals, not illegal in Spain but not really the type of thing a 'good citizen' should do. Whatever the case, Rayo took the lead halfway through the first half when César chopped down Luis Cembranos in the penalty area and Michel I converted the spot kick. Cembranos was Rayo's most dangerous forward, and both he and César have an outside chance of joining Camacho's squad for Euro 2000, the two having made their debuts for Spain this season. If they make it, let's hope they are still friends after this match. Other than the penalty both sides were disappointing in the first half, Deportivo's only shot coming from a long range effort by Víctor which Lopetegui finger-tipped for a corner. Irureta made changes in the second half, with two attacking players, Djalminha and Pauleta, replacing Jokanovic and Víctor. For a few minutes it looked as if they could score, with first Turu and then Mauro Silva going close and Djalminha looking menacing once he had got over his fit of temper for not being in the starting line up (sensitive man, our Djalminha, as Arsenal will vouch for). However the changes left them short at the back, and when Manuel Pablo could only head the ball up in the air on a Rayo counter-attack, there was substitute Ferrón to drive the ball into a crowd of players and score off Naybet's legs. Deportivo were sunk, and they will have to wait a little longer before they can shout their first ever league victory. All their supporters remember the season when they lost the title on the last day, and that penalty miss by Djukic in the last minute which would have given them victory, and nobody is taking anything for granted. There will be a lot more sleepless nights to come before the end of the season. Rayo meanwhile plod along quietly, and still have an outside chance of European football next year having gone six games in a row without defeat. Who would have thought?

Oviedo 3 - Barcelona 0

Oviedo: Esteban; Keita, Boris, Onopko, Rabarivony (Corbo 84'); Nadj, Paulo Bento (Jaime 74'); Losada, Pompei, Rubén (Iván Ania 77'); Dely Valdés. 4-2-3-1.
Barcelona: Hesp; Frank De Boer, Déhu (Guardiola 52'); Reiziger, Xavi, Sergi; Litmanen, Cocu (Zenden 52'); Figo, Dani, Rivaldo. 2-3-2-3.

Team changes: Oviedo: Keita, Rabarivony for Danjou, Dubovsky / Barcelona: Reiziger, Déhu, Sergi, Litmanen, Dani for Puyol, Abelardo, Bogarde, Gabri, Kluivert.

1-0. 32. Dely Valdés. Strong header after corner from Pompei.
2-0. 65. Pompei. Following up after penalty kick by Dely hit post.
3-0. 79. Dely Valdés. Shot against post and followed up himself.

Barcelona let in three goals for the fourth time in two weeks as they crashed once again against a fighting Oviedo side. Having set the Champions League as his main objective, manager Louis Van Gaal finally decided to rest some of his players and play his reserves, hoping that that could change their fortunes. It was a case however of 'plus ça change, plus ça reste pareil', as Oviedo followed Chelsea, Mallorca and Atlético Madrid in running rings around the Barça defence. With Bogarde injured, Sergi came in at left back for his first game for ten weeks after a muscle injury. Reiziger, Déhu, Litmanen and Dani all started the match, with Puyol, Abelardo and Gabri rested and Kluivert left out of the squad for comments he made midweek against his manager. Guardiola was not fully recovered from his knee injury, and Van Gaal decided to leave him on the bench at the start with one eye on Tuesday's return match with Chelsea. Luis Aragonés changed his formation, playing a Deportivo style 4-2-3-1 line up, with Keita and Rabarivony coming in as full backs and Dely Valdés alone up front. Litmanen hit a first time shot wide in early in the match, and Hesp saved from Rubén. The first goal came just after the half hour when an inspired Dely Valdés rose above Déhu and Frank De Boer to power a long header past Hesp, who could only get a hand to it on the way in. After the break Van Gaal decided that he needed Guardiola and made a double change, also bringing on Zenden for his first game since his recent injury. Déhu and Cocu both left the field visibly unhappy at being taken off. Shortly after the substitutions Euro 2000 referee García-Aranda waved away Barcelona's appeals for a penalty for a pull by Onopko on Dani, and a few minutes later he awarded one to the home side after Frank De Boer appeared to handle in the area. De Boer protested without avail to the linesman that he had not handled it, and television images later showed that he was right, and that he had in fact deflected the ball with his head. Dely Valdés struck the penalty against the post to the right of the goal, but the ball bounced back in to the centre and Pompei reacted quicker than anyone, firing a shot first time past the stranded Hesp. Later in the half García-Aranda made up for his mistake by ruling out a goal by Oviedo for offside, a borderline decision hotly protested this time by the home team players. With Rivaldo once again not at his best, it was left to Dani to test Esteban, but the Asturian keeper saved well from a shot from close range. Ten minutes from the end Dely got his eleventh of the season, Barcelona once again unlucky as his first shot rebounded off the post back into his path. Luis brought on Corbo near the end, the player making his first entrance since the death of his wife in a car crash, and the crowd gave him their encouraging support. The victory was a welcome balsam for Oviedo, and they move temporarily at least out of the relegation zone above Betis. Barcelona drop to third and are now five points behind Deportivo pending Sunday's game, and they need another 'magical night' next Tuesday against Chelsea to kick start their season back into shape.

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