|First Division - Day 18|
Deportivo 2 - Valencia 0
Manuel Pablo, Donato, Helder, Romero; Mauro Silva, Emerson (Valerón
68'); Víctor (Pandiani 77'), Djalminha, Fran (Turu Flores 90'); Makaay.
Team changes: Depor: Donato, Fran for Naybet, Fernando / Valencia: Angloma, Carboni for Ayala, Angulo.
Two goals in the dying minutes of this game helped Deportivo La Coruña move up to within a point of their rivals, first division leaders Valencia, in a match brought forward to Saturday night. Valencia had been forced to defend the scoreless draw after Turienzo Alvarez sent off their striker Adrian Ilie for a second bookable offence, a particularly controversial decision from a referee who at times lost control of a very physical match. But with only one minute of ordinary time left on the clock, two second half substitutes Valerón and Pandiani combined for the Uruguayan striker to steer a diving header past the despairing Cañizares. It was the third choice striker's eighth of the season and it left Valencia stunned, but more was to come as Makaay pounced on a bad pass by makeshift right back Albelda to shoot low past the Valencia keeper.
Depor's manager Javier Irureta was missing Naybet, away on international duty, and there was much speculation as to whether he would give César a rare start to mark the on-form John Carew. However in the end Helder kept his place alongside Donato (back from suspension), with Fran returning from injury to replace Fernando on the left of midfield. Mauro Silva was also expected to be out having not trained all week due to a foot injury, but in the end he played with a protective bandage and Duscher has to wait another week to make his first league start for his new club. Héctor Cúper on the Valencia bench recovered both his first choice full backs, Angloma and Carboni, after their suspensions, and he reverted to his line up with four at the back. Kily González still had not shaken off the strain that has kept him out for half of the season, and Vicente once again kept his place. The game started well despite the bad weather, and Makaay at one end and Carew at the other shot just wide with only the keeper to beat within the first five minutes. But then the play degenerated as nerves got the better of some of the players, with Djalminha in particular losing his temper with his marker Albelda. Still Turienzo Alvarez did nothing to help, flashing yellow cards every time someone committed a foul and on occasions when they didn't, upsetting the players more, and by half time he had accumulated seven yellows.
Shortly after the break Carew failed to get on the end of a Vicente cross, and then he lost control of the ball at the last minute after cleverly turning his defender. The big striker has scored nine times this season, including one each in the last four league games, and curiously all have come in the second half. Djalminha finally decided to show his better side, and he struck the outside of the post with Cañizares beaten, and then took on three or four defenders before they finally pulled him down. Then Valencia were reduced to ten men after the ball hit Ilie on the forearm after he tried to control a high cross, and the referee pulled out a second yellow and sent him off. It was an over the top decision, but it changed the course of the match as Cúper pulled his men back. Irureta didn't take full advantage though until ten minutes from the end, when he brought on Pandiani to join Makaay up front, and the big striker once again got his manager out of jail.
Up to that point Cúper had only made one change, bringing on Deschamps for the injured Angloma and switching Albelda to right back, but inexplicably Cúper didn't use up his other two substitutions, despite having two strikers Sánchez and Diego Alonso on the bench, not to mention Angulo and Zahovic. In fact the whole side appeared to be in a state of shock, and when Makaay was allowed to walk through it was all over. Valencia's eight match unbeaten run was over, and with the two goals counting against their goal average, they gave up the leadership to Real Madrid before the capital team had even kicked off. Valencia now go on to play Barcelona and Real Madrid at home with a chance to make amends, but the result was a blow to their chances of finally winning a league championship. After the match Djalminha and Albelda came to blows on the pitch, but other players separated them before too much harm was done. Depor need his creative brilliance if they are to repeat last season's triumph, and the last thing they want is for him to be out for a few games. It wouldn't be the first time.