First Division - Day 23

Celta 1 - Rayo Vallecano 1

Celta: Cavallero; Velasco, Berizzo, Cáceres, Yago; Jayo, Vagner (Giovanella 46'); Edu, Mostovoi (McCarthy 75'), Gustavo López (Karpin 53'); Catanha. 4-2-3-1. Rayo: Keller; Mauro, Ballesteros, Urbano, Alcázar; Glaucio, Helder, Iván Iglesias (Poschner 46'), Setvalls; Bolic (Bolo 70'), Bartelt (Luis Cembranos 46'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Celta: Mostovoi for Tomás / Rayo: Urbano, Glaucio, Helder, Setvalls, Bartelt for De Quintana, Poschner, Quevedo, Michel, Bolo.

0-1. 29. Ballesteros. From a yard out after Urbano headed across Iván's free kick.
1-1. 33. Juanfran. Headed wide of keeper after long cross from left.

Celta and Rayo came back to the every day normalities of the league after their heroic feats in Europe on Thursday to pick up a point apiece in a low rhythm 90 minutes. With second leg UEFA cup matches in a few days neither manager wanted his players to tire themselves out, and both rested key men for this game. Víctor Fernández left Giovanella and Valery Karpin out of his starting line up, although the Russian's exclusion was logical given that he had been up most of the night attending the birth of his daughter the delightfully named Valeria Karpina. Juande Ramos went one further, leaving out Michel, Cembranos, Poschner and Quevedo, who has been carrying an injury for some time now, with Urbano and Bartelt coming in for rare starts in defence and up front. Both managers used up their three substitutions quickly, with McCarthy coming back for Celta after an injury which has kept him out for a couple of games.

In the first minute of the game Juanfran almost scored for the home side, and Celta were to spend most of the game in their opponents half. However Rayo took the lead just before the half hour mark with a set piece free kick, Iván Iglesias touching his right shoulder to signify that he was going to stick it on Urbano's head on the the right post. He did just that, and Urbano did his bit, heading across the goal for Ballesteros to slide the ball home from a yard out. A few minutes later Celta showed that they too can play that game, Juanfran beating the offside trap to head home Mostovoi's free kick unmarked.

It was fitting that both goals came from defenders, as other than that the two defences held firm, with Keller on excellent form in the Rayo goal making important saves from Edu, Mostovoi and Catanha in the second half. In the end both had to settle for a draw, which didn't really help either side in their fight to get back into the UEFA spots for next season, Rayo staying in seventh place and Celta in fifteenth, despite now going five games in the league without defeat. But more pressing for both teams was to come out of the game intact, and they can go into next Thursday's UEFA cup games at full strength. The rest can wait for now.