First Division - Day 23

Villarreal 2 - Valladolid 1

Villarreal: López Vallejo; Galván, Quique Alvarez, Unai, Arruabarrena; Jorge López, Amor (Jaime 70'), Cagna, Calleja (Escoda 15'); Víctor (Craioveanu 75'), Palermo. 4-4-2.
Valladolid: Bizzarri; Torres Gómez, García Calvo, Heinze, Marcos; Eusebio (Ciric 80'), Turiel; Fernando Sales, Fernando, Antonio López (Alberto 89'); Pachón. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Villarreal: Arruabarrena, Amor for Tasevski, Javier Gracia / Valladolid: Turiel, Fernando Sales for Jesús, Caminero.

1-0. 38. Víctor (penalty). After Heinze ruled to have brought down Palermo.
2-0. 81. Jaime. Following up after Bizzarri saved from Palermo.
2-1. 92. Alberto. Volleyed past keeper after pass from Fernando Sales.

The yellow submarine moved to within two points of fourth placed Barcelona with their fourth victory in a row in what is rapidly becoming the best season in their history. Once again the presence of Palermo in the starting line up produced a near capacity crowd, and plans to increase the size of the ground to 22,000 with the help of the local authorities are close to being approved. Villarreal's manager Víctor Muñoz could count on a full strength squad, with Arruabarrena and Amor returning after suspension, although he was to lose Calleja a quarter of an hour into the game after he damaged knee ligaments, and he will miss most of the rest of the season. Their opponents Valladolid were forced to make two important changes in midfield, with Caminero not fit and Jesús suspended on video evidence for three games after punching Marini in their match against Numancia.

Valladolid have the third worst away record of the season and have still to win a game outside of the Nuevo Zorrilla stadium. Their main problem at the moment seems to be the lack of a reliable striker, and once again their best chances came from midfield, with Eusebio and Turiel testing López Vallejo in the first half and Antonio López, Fernando and Fernando Sales doing the same after the break. But without playing particularly well Villarreal won rather too easily, and if their forwards had been more on target they could have completed a rout. Once again the presence of Palermo gave them victory, and although the big striker didn't score himself, he had a hand in both goals, winning a penalty in the first half which Víctor stuck away and setting up Jaime for the second after Bizzarri could only parry away his header.

Alberto and Ciric came on late in the game for the visitors, the Yugoslavian finally returning after a long injury, and Alberto finally got a consolation goal too late in the game to affect the result. With rumours that the ownership of the club could change hands in the near future, Valladolid are now wallowing in mid-table, having completed their first objective of staying up but not looking like doing anything else. Villarreal continue on, this year's revelation team taking over the baton from Alavés and Rayo in the league, and they and sixth placed Mallorca have now opened up a five point gap over their immediate followers. Up periscope, the submarine is coming to the surface!