First Division - Day 17

Rayo Vallecano 2 - Mallorca 2

Rayo: Keller; Alcázar, Ballesteros, De Quintana, Mingo; Helder (Mauro 68'), Poschner (Pablo Sanz 68'), Quevedo, Michel; Bolic (Luis Cembranos 74'), Bolo. 4-4-2.
Mallorca: Leo Franco; Olaizola, Nadal, Fernando Niño, Miguel Soler; Finidi, Marcos (Francisco Soler 85'), Engonga, Ibagaza (Stankovic 80'); Eto'o, Carlos (Novo 50'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Rayo: Helder, Poschner for Mauro, Pablo Sanz / Mallorca: Olaizola, Eto'o, Carlos for Cordero, Stankovic, Luque.

0-1. 04. Ibagaza. Shot across Keller from right after pass from Finidi.
1-1. 33. De Quintana. Header on far post after long free kick from Poschner.
2-1. 42. Quevedo. Got in front of defence to volley home Poschner's cross.
2-2. 62. Eto'o. Took lifted pass from Ibagaza inside area and beat Keller.

With the big four Champions League clubs already dominating the league table, Rayo and Mallorca lined up to dispute the UEFA cup places. The two teams started and ended the day in sixth and fifth place respectively after a deserved draw, playing open attractive football. Both sides had changed their sides for their midweek cup matches which they won without too much trouble, and brought back their first choice players for this game. Rayo's manager Juande Ramos has been alternating his goalkeepers, with Lopetgui playing in the league and Keller in the cup, but it appears that he has changed things around with the new year, Keller keeping his place in the league side for this game. Poschner returned after a long lay-off with a broken cheek bone, with Helder joining in him in midfield. Mallorca were missing the injured Luque, with Carlos substituting, and Mono Burgos came in to the squad for the first time since replacing the injured Roa in the 25 man first team group. However with the three non-EU places occupied by Ibagaza, Finidi, and this time Eto'o in place of Stankovic, Leo Franco kept his place in goal. Olaizola and Armando both returned to the squad after serving a one match ban.

Mallorca had never won at Vallecas, but they started well, with their most on form player Ibagaza opening the scoring as early as the fourth minute. Bolic came close to scoring a few minutes later, and the Bosnian vociferously claimed a penalty after he was brought down in the penalty area by Fernando Niño later in the half which the jolly Bueno Grimal turned down. However by half time they were in the lead, with Poschner once again in charge setting up De Quintana on the far post to head past a surprised Leo Franco from a possible offside position, then combining with Michel to swing over a cross which Quevedo slid home. Bolo could have made it three a couple of minutes later, but Marcos cleared his shot off the line.

Shortly after the break Luis Aragonés bought on Novo for Carlos and he immediately got involved, going close twice within minutes of coming on the field of play. Then Ibagaza spotted Eto'o loose on the edge of the area and flighted a pass over the defence for him to control the ball and shoot into the net across Keller. Ramos made a double change, returning to the side that played against Real Madrid last week, and a few minutes later he brought on Luis Cembranos for his first game in almost four months, to the delight of the local crowd who had missed him during his long injury. However it was the visitors who went closest to scoring, with Eto'o and Finidi both wasting chances in front of the American keeper before De Quintana shot weakly into Leo Franco's hands with the last kick of the match. Rayo will have to wait another week at least before clocking up their 100th victory in the first division, but with the teams below them failing to take advantage they and Mallorca keep up their challenge for a place in Europe next season.