|First Division - Day 17|
Oviedo 2 - Barcelona 3
Keita, Danjou, Martinovic (Rabarivony 46'), Boris; Oscar Pérez
(Möller 65'), Onopko, Tomic, Iván Ania; Rubén (Paunovic
46'), Oli. 4-4-2.
Team changes: Oviedo: Danjou, Tomic, Iván Ania, Rubén for Pablo Suárez, Jaime, Rubén Reyes, Losada / Barcelona: Reiziger, Simao for Gabri, Luis Enrique.
For the second league match in a row, Barcelona almost threw away a three goal lead in the last quarter of the game. This was almost a carbon copy of the fixture against Alavés before Christmas, with Kluivert and Rivaldo scoring three between them, and their opponents getting two back in a three minute period near the end. One of the most exciting games of the season, it would have been no surprise if the final score had been five or six all as both sides created chances with open attacking football. Oviedo were defending an undefeated home record in their new stadium which included victories in their last seven home games, and in the end were unlucky to come away with nothing as they mounted a last ditch effort to snatch a point. Manager Radomir Antic was for once forced to make several changes, with Rubén coming in up front for Losada, who will miss the rest of the season after breaking his leg badly in the last match against Deportivo. Danjou and Tomic came back after a one match suspension, but Amieva had to sit this one out and surprisingly youngster Oscar came in to his place on the right. New signing Paunovic, another of Antic's Yugoslavian countrymen, had to start on the bench with the three non-EU places already occupied by Martinovic, Onopko and Tomic.
Barcelona were having trouble putting together a back four, with Abelardo injured and Gabri also out after clashing heads with a teammate in the cup midweek and leaving the field in a neckbrace. The under 21 international had just won a place in the side as a makeshift right back after threatening to take up offers from Arsenal and others if he did not play more regularly, and although the injury was not as bad as it seemed, he is likely to miss a couple of matches. As a result Reiziger came back in, with the versatile Cocu dropping back to the centre of defence and Simao returning on the right wing. Although Oviedo did have more attempts at goal throughout the match, Barcelona were lightning on the counter-attack, and were two up within the first quarter of an hour with a 100% strike rate, with Overmars hitting the post a few minutes later in only their third attack of the match. Serra Ferrer had decided to keep Reina in goal despite the return to fitness of Dutruel, and the youngster was heavily involved in the first half, saving from Oli, Tomic and Iván Ania with an effective if not elegant style. With ten minutes to go Oli powered in a header, and although Reina let it slip through, he turned quick enough to get a hand to it to pull it away from the goal. Oviedo claimed that the ball had crossed the line and television pictures appeared to confirm it later, but referee Rodríguez Santiago and his linesman disagreed.
At half time Antic decided to bring on Paunovic, sacrificing Martinovic to make a space for him. Reina once again saved from Onopko, but a few minutes later Barça were three up after Esteban tipped an Overmars shot away for a corner, Kluivert heading in from close range after Frank De Boer had flicked on Guardiola's corner. It seemed to be all over, but Onopko fired a shot in from the edge of the area to reduce the margin, and Iván Ania did likewise three minutes later to set up a nailbiting finish. Esteban made a great save from a Kluivert header, but after that Barcelona disappeared from Oviedo's half, Petit and Luis Enrique coming on to help out with defensive duties. Reina flapped away as the wave of blue shirts bore down on his goal, with substitute Möller, Paunovic and then Oli taking turns to shoot at goal. But there was no repeat of their recent comeback against Racing and Barcelona stole away with the three points at the end. They have now gone ten games in all competitions without defeat, and close in on Deportivo in fourth place who lost today. Oviedo drop to eleventh, but they are still only two points away from the UEFA spots. They have to improve their abysmal away record, but have little chance of doing so next week against on-form Real Madrid in the Bernabeu stadium. Barcelona have to change the chip, with a midweek match down the road from here against giant killers Torrelavega in the cup. Expect to see their key players rested for that one. They earned it in this match.