First Division - Day 17

Valencia 1 - Racing Santander 0

Valencia: Cañizares; Djukic, Pellegrino, Ayala; Angulo (Deschamps 70'), Albelda (Parri 85'), Baraja, Vicente; Mendieta; Ilie (Zahovic 65'), Carew. 3-4-1-2.
Racing: Lemmens; Tais, Txema, Mellberg, Sietes (Vivar Dorado 38'); Espina (Ismael 60'), Jaime (Preciado 75'); Manjarín, Morán, Amavisca; Mazzoni. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Valencia: Angulo, Albelda, Ilie for Carboni, Milla, Juan Sánchez / Racing: Txema, Espina, Jaime, Manjarín for Arzeno, Jaime Alvarez, Ismael, Rushfeldt.

1-0. 45. Carew. Stuck out a foot after Lemmens dropped corner from right.

John Carew was once again the saviour as Valencia held on to top spot with a belaboured one goal victory against Racing Santander. Héctor Cúper's side were looking for a win to forget their elimination from the Spanish cup midweek by second division B side Gaudix, a strange match in which the first division leaders were three goals down before half time, pulled back with two late goals to level scores at 4-4, and then go on to lose on penalties. Even stranger was the fact that Gaudix, bottom of the southern group of the regionalised division, had missed eight penalties in the league before that match and then scored six out of six in the cup tie. Angulo, the man who missed Valencia's sixth penalty to give Gaudix their 6-5 shoot out win, was one of only three players from that game who were in today's line up, and the boos from the home supporters as the players came on the pitch increased a few decibels as he appeared.

This was however a different team from the side Cúper put out for the cup, with Mendieta, Carew, Baraja and all returning to the side. As well as Angloma, Carboni was suspended for this match, and although new signing Fabio Aurelio was expected to cover for him at left back, the manager preferred to revert to his 3-4-1-2 line up, with three central defenders and Angulo and Vicente playing as wing backs. Kily González, who had just obtained dual Spanish and Argentinian nationality, was unable to take his place however due to a groin strain. Racing Santander had had no trouble disposing of Badajoz in their midweek cup match despite putting out a virtual second eleven, and they too went back to their best team for this game. With Ceballos injured Lemmens kept his place in goal, having served a one match suspension in the cup tie after being sent off in the league last week. B team keeper Borja took a place on the bench after making his debut in the cup, and Txema came in for the suspended Arzeno.

Racing had a golden opportunity to take advantage of Valenica's drop in morale, but Gergorio Manzano's team disappointingly sat back waiting for the home side to come at them. In fact in all the match they only managed two real efforts at goal, a weak shot by Mazonni in the first half and an effort from Manjarín in the second which Pellegrino cleared. But Valencia were not much better, with Lemmens only having to intervene a couple of times, notably from shots by Carew and Mendieta, in the first 40 minutes. Seven minutes from half time Manzano had to change his plans after an accidental clash of heads with Angulo left Sietes concussed, Vivar Dorado coming on in his place. The full back didn't recognize his team mates at first and thought he was still on the beach, and so was rushed off to hospital and spent the night under observation.

Then five minutes from the break Lemmens turned a shot from Ilie around the post, and after the Belgian keeper failed to hold on to Mendieta's resulting corner from the right, Carew nipped in to poke the ball into the net. The second half continued along the same lines, and although Valencia took the three points to stay ahead of Real Madrid on goal average, the fans had not forgiven them and whistled the players off the pitch. In fact the Valencia supporters have been generally unhappy about the way Cúper has restyled the side on Italian lines playing defensive football, and it is quite likely that the manager will not continue after the summer when his contract runs out. Racing fans would give their eye teeth though to be in Valencia's position. They stay in the relegation zone in next to last place, and Manzano need some quick results to get them out of danger. Time is already starting to slip away.