First Division - Day 18

Barcelona 3 - Valladolid 1

Barcelona: Reina; Gabri, Frank De Boer, Abelardo, Cocu; Guardiola, Petit (Reiziger 46'); Simao (Gerard 70'), Rivaldo, Overmars; Kluivert. 4-2-3-1.
Valladolid: Bizzarri; Torres Gómez, García Calvo, Heinze, Marcos; Jesús; Caminero (Ricchetti 85'), Eusebio, Fernando (Fernando Sales 65'), Antonio López; Pachón (Turiel 90'). 4-1-4-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Gabri, Abelardo, Petit for Reiziger, Sergi, Gerard / Valladolid: Pachón for Alberto.

1-0. 52. Kluivert. Glancing header down past keeper from Guardiola corner.
1-1. 55. Caminero. Headed past Reina after short cross from Fernando.
2-1. 91. Guardiola. Bent powerful free kick over wall and into roof of net.
3-1. 93. Rivaldo. Picked up ball on half way line and ran on to shoot low into net.

Two goals in injury time gave ten man Barcelona a last minute victory to keep in touch with the leaders. Referee Megía Dávila sent off Barça's Abelardo for a late tackle on Pachón just before the half time interval, leaving the Blaugrana with a man short for the whole of the second half. Abelardo was one of three changes to Serra Ferrer's side, the veteran defender coming back from an injury which has kept him sidelined for the last couple of weeks. In too came Gabri, now recovered from his injury and a first choice at right back in recent games, and with the versatile Cocu switching to left back for the first time in place of the injured Sergi, Petit came in to his more natural position in midfield, playing the anchor role alongside skipper Guardiola. Pancho Ferraro only made one change from the team who defeated Deportivo last week, with the substitute who scored two goals in that match Pachón taking the place of Alberto up front.

As in most of Spain on Saturday night, the weather was awful, with a constant drizzle falling throughout the match. It was a night to reencounter some old faces, with Barcelona's old manager Loius Van Gaal in the crowd watching his Dutch internationals and Eusebio, a former member of Johan Cruyff's 'dream team', warmly applauded by the home supporters as he took the field for their rivals. Half of the Valladolid team had never played at the Nou Camp stadium, and they appeared somewhat overawed as Barcelona bore down on their goal. Bizzarri made two saves early on from Overmars and then a brilliant stop from Kluivert as he broke free in front of the keeper. But otherwise Barcelona were off target, and after Abelardo received his marching orders, Valladolid started to get back in the game.

At half time Serra Ferrer replaced Petit, who had already received his fifth yellow card of the season, bringing on Reiziger to restore his back four. Then just when Valladolid were playing at their best the home side took the lead, Kluivert losing his marker to head home Guardiola's corner. They didn't have much time to celebrate though, as Valladolid attacked, and after Reina had parried Pachón's shot, Fernando picked the ball up on the left and lifted it over for Caminero to head into the empty net. Ferraro gradually reduced his attacking force, happy to settle for a draw, and in the 90th minute he took off his last attacker Pachón as the fourth referee signalled four minutes of stoppage time. Then Overmars was broought down by Torres Gómez on the edge of the area, and Guardiola stepped up to bend his free kick over the wall and past the lunging Bizzarri.

There was still time for Barcelona to add a third, Rivaldo sprinting from the halfway line to fire a strong shot under the keeper's body. It was the Brazilian's 101st goal for his club, having reached his ton midweek in the cup game against Torrelavega, and he now has 21 for the season, approaching his best ever tally. Barcelona have not now lost in any competition for 12 games, and they stay in fourth place a point behind Deportivo but now only two behind Valencia, who they visit next week. Valladolid return home to lick their wounds, but they still hold down twelfth place pending Sunday's matches.