First Division - Day 23

Las Palmas 0 - Valencia 2

Las Palmas: Nacho González; Edu Alonso, Alvaro, Olías, Paqui, Jarni; Jorge (Angel 83'), Samways, Josico ( Orlando 67'); Guayre (Eloy 67'), Oulare. 5-3-2.
Valencia: Cañizares; Angloma, Ayala, Djukic, Carboni; Angulo, Albelda, Baraja, Vicente; Juan Sánchez (Aimar 79'), Carew (Diego Alonso 78'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Las Palmas: Alvaro, Olías, Jorge, Guayre for Schurrer, Jaime Molina, Angel, Eloy / Valencia: Ayala, Albelda, Vicente for Pellegrino, Mendieta, Kily González.

0-1. 17. Juan Sánchez. Shot from edge of area past Nacho González.
0-2. 87. Aimar. Free kick around wall and past stand-in keeper Jarni.

A comfortable victory for Valencia in Las Palmas took them above Barcelona and up to third place in the league. There was great expectation in a packed Insular stadium to see Valencia's stars, and this being Carnival week many of the supporters were wearing fancy dress. However with one eye on Tuesday's Champions League game at Manchester United, Héctor Cúper disappointed many people leaving out three of his star players, including the clown, Pablo Aimar, as well as his captain Mendieta and Kily González. He did however have Ayala back after the disciplinary committee let himoff the last of his three match ban. Sergio Kresic's men are well aware of the workings of that committee, having seen red eight times before this match, and although Alvaro returned after a one match suspension, Schurrer was eventually required to sit this game out despite irregularities in his sending off last week (see villains section for details).

Guayre did however come back up front after recovering from his injury, and he shot wide early on in the home side's first attack. Then with just over a quarter of an hour gone Valencia took the lead, Juan Sánchez taking the ball from Albelda to bend a shot around Nacho González from the edge of the area. Baraja went close to adding a second with a free kick, but Las Palmas pinned the visitors back in their area for the rest of the first half, with Edu Alonso almost surprising Cañizares with a speculative effort, and Jorge claiming a penalty near the break. Kresic put on two fresh forwards Orlando and Eloy halfway through the second half, but they could make no headway against an orderly Valencia defence which has only let in sixteen goals in the league all season.

But the circus began with the introduction of 'el loco' and 'el payaso', Diego Alonso and Pablo Aimar, with twelve minutes of ordinary time left. And if Aimar was the clown, referee Megía Dávila was the magician, pulling a penalty out of nowhere when Jarni put up his hands and turned his back to avoid being hit in the face at point blank range by a hard cross from Angulo. It was a very harsh decision, but justice was done when Nacho González got down quickly to save Diego Alonso's spot kick. Seconds later though the same actors took centre stage again, the referee sending off the keeper after he brought down Alonso just outside the area. Las Palmas had already made their three changes, and so Jarni had to go in goal to face Aimar's free kick, a sad looking figure who looked even sadder as Aimar's kick sped past him into the back of the net for his first goal with his new club. There was not much time for anything else, and to top it all Megía's four yellow cards included one each for Samways and Jorge, both of whom will miss next week's game with Málaga together with Nacho González. The crowd didn't mind that much, their team are still ninth and you can't get too unhappy during carnival time. Valencia stayed on overnight in the island, flying on the next day directly to Manchester for their midweek game. The three points will give them a booster for that match.