| Manuel Labor reports.....
Copa del Rey
|First Division - Day Thrity Five|
Celta Vigo 2 - Deportivo de La Coruña 1
Celades, Sergio, Cáceres, Juanfran; Giovanella, Makelele; Gustavo
López (Coira 80'), Karpin, Revivo (Vivas 60'); McCarthy (Turdó
Team changes: Celta: Juanfran, Gustavo López, McCarthy for Velasco, Mostovoi, Turdó / Deportivo: Naybet, Flavio for César, Jokanovic.
Deportivo's championship hopes were badly damaged by local rivals Celta Vigo, who took their revenge for their defeat earlier in the season. In a bad tempered match, Deportivo were unable to take advantage despite playing against ten men for much of the game following the sending off of Juanfran in the twelfth minute for a punch on Víctor. The defeat leaves the leaders now only two points ahead of second placed Barcelona, with three games to go to the end of the season. Deportivo had been concerned all this week that Celta would be especially motivated to win this game, having gone seven games without a victory and with this their last opportunity to move into contention for a place in Europe next season. In recent times the matches have been hard fought, and despite efforts by the two presidents to make peace and cool down feelings before the game, tensions ran high and there were ugly clashes both on and off the field. One of the flash points of the last match, the duel between Mostovoi and Djalminha, was at least avoided, as Celta's Russian midfielder was suspended and missed the game. Their manager Víctor Fernández brought back McCarthy, Gustavo López and Juanfran into the side, with Celades holding his place at right back due to the injury to Velasco. Javier Irureta brought in Naybet for the injured César, and had Flavio back in midfield having returned from international duty. He decided to keep Djalminha in the starting line up, leaving Turu Flores, scorer of many goals in previous derbies, on the bench. Celta caught Deportivo by surprise, and within four minutes they were ahead, Benni McCarthy celebrating his return to the side with some quick finishing. Referee Llonch Andreu was called upon right from the start as tempers flared, although his interest in controlling the game meant several stoppages which broke the rhythm early on. He had no doubts sending off Juanfran however, the volatile full back clearly throwing a punch at Víctor after he felt that he had been provoked by his rival. It was a silly thing to do, and left his team with ten men at a vital point in the game. Despite the numerical advantage, Deportivo were unable to create much danger, with a Víctor header over the bar and a gallop by Makaay which was cut short by Sergio. Celta's confidence returned, and Songo'o pulled off a good save from Revivo at point blank range just before half time. At the break Irureta decided to throw on secret weapon number one, Turu Flores, and he also changed Schurrer for Romero in order to stop Gustavo López's attacks down Celta's right. The reaction was immediate, and as fans were settling back into their seats Turu struck, finishing off a good move down the right by Víctor and Makaay. Now they were level, although Deportivo were lucky not to be left with ten men a few minutes later when Fran brought down McCarthy, Llonch Andreu only showing him a yellow card despite there being no more defenders between him and the goal. Víctor decided that maybe a point was enough, and brought on Vivas for Revivo, with Turdó once again replacing McCarthy. The 29,000 capacity crowd started to get nasty, and Celades was floored by a banner thrown by Deportivo's radical supporters, the Riazor Blues. The police were called upon to charge both sets of supporters, and clashes between some of the 2,000 visiting fans and locals went on after the match. After Turdó had headed over, Gustavo López gave his side the lead with an individual effort, taking the ball around a defender before shooting past Songo'o. Irureta put on Pauleta and Víctor brought on Coira for the Argentinian forward to compensate the odd man, but he needn't have bothered. In the 83rd minute Llonch Andreu got the wrong man and booked Romero for a trip on Karpin, when the real offender was Mauro Silva. Both were on a yellow card anyway, but it was Romero who got his marching orders instead of the Brazilian to level up the sides. In injury time Deportivo were down to nine men, Songo'o sticking up a hand to block Turdó's lob outside of the penalty area, and he too was off. With three substitutes made and makeshift keeper Flavio already off the field, Donato took over in goal and saved the resulting free kick. It was all over, and Deportivo's life suddenly got complicated. They must receive Zaragoza next week in the Riazor, knowing that anything but a win could cost them the championship. Celta move back up the table to eighth, and although a direct UEFA spot is out of the question as Espanyol and Atlético have reached the final of the cup (otherwise the seventh spot would have been up for grabs), they are still keen to enter through the back door by way of the Inter-toto cup.
Celta: Málaga (A), Valencia (H), Barcelona (A)
Atlético Madrid 0 - Barcelona 3
Molina; Pilipauskas, Santi, Gamarra (Correa 77'), Capdevila; Aguilera, Baraja,
Valerón (Mena 58'), Solari (Luque 73'); Kiko, Hasselbaink. 4-4-2.
Team changes: Atlético: Pilipauskas, Baraja, Valerón, Hasselbaink for Gaspar, Bjebl, Hugo Leal, Paunovic / Barcelona: Sergi, Litmanen, Dani for Cocu, Rivaldo, Kluivert.
Barcelona did turn up this time to play their match against Atlético after pulling out of their cup match with them on Monday night. You would have thought that the home fans were grateful for letting their team through, but nothing of the sort, booing the Catalan side onto the pitch and calling them cowards. The ground was almost full as fans once again turned up to support their team in their hour of need, Atlético desperately needing the three points to get them out of the relegation zone and away from the threat of second division football. In the end however they gave up without a fight, losing 0-3 to a Barcelona side missing several of their key players. With one eye on Tuesday night's Champions League semi-final at Valencia, Louis Van Gaal decided to leave a tired Rivaldo back in Barcelona, the Brazilian having only just returned from playing for his country, for whom he scored two goals midweek. Kluivert stayed with him, nursing an injury picked up playing for Holland midweek, and Cocu and Ronald De Boer were also left behind having not recovered from their prior injuries. Antic decided to bring in Uruguayan full back Pilipauskas who had not played all season, and could count on Hasselbaink after the disciplinary committee decided that Monday's fiasco would count towards his two match suspension. Aguilera passed a late fitness test, and he was the best of a bad bunch for the home side, who didn't seem to want to win this game. Both sides claimed a penalty in the first five minutes, the home team for a push by Puyol on Solari, and the visitors for a pull by Santi on Dani. The match also was push and pull at the beginning, with Molina saving from Gabri at one end, and Baraja shooting over at the other. In the 20th minute Barcelona lost Figo with an injury to his 'isquiotibiales' (whatever they are), a real blow for them, especially as the Potuguese winger is likely to be out for 10 days or so with a leg injury. Simao came on in his place on the right wing. Even Hasselbaink was not on form on the night, the lethargy from the rest of the players seeming to infect him as well, and he shot wide on the half hour mark from a chance which he would normally have had for breakfast. Apart from a shot by Simao Barcelona had not done much, but Sergi celebrated his return to the first team with a goal which any forward would have been proud of, dribbling round players as if he had been born to it. That sank Atlético, and after Santi and Baraja shot wide, Dani finished them off racing through the offside trap to score past Molina. It was all over, and after Gabri added insult to injury in the last minute some fans shouted insults at their players whilst others just wept. After the match players were accosted by angry supporters, and Molina and others had their cars scratched. Jesus Gil was less complementary than he had been the week before, accusing his players of not trying and making plans for the next season in the second tier competition. They are still not mathematically down, but nobody gives a hope for them right now. Off the field of play, one of their so called supporters, Ricardo Guerra of the violent group Bastión, was found guilty of the murder of Real Sociedad supporter Aitor Zabaleta last year outside the ground. Guerra was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. Barcelona close in on leaders Deportivo and move a little bit further away from Zaragoza, but have to change their chip now for next Tuesday's vital Champions League game. They may be out of the Spanish cup, but they are still on line for the other two trophies. It's going to be a long hard month.
Atlético: Oviedo (A), Sevilla (H), Mallorca (A)