First Division - Day 36

Racing Santander 1 - Valencia 1

Racing: Ceballos; Mellberg, Arzeno, Txema, Juanma; Espina, Jaime; Manjarín (Colsa 70'), Magallanes (Rushfeldt 83'), Amavisca; Mazzoni (Regueiro 70'). 4-2-3-1.
Valencia: Cañizares; Angloma (Albelda 75'), Djukic, Pellegrino, Fabio Aurelio; Mendieta, Baraja, Aimar (Zahovic 79'), Vicente (Kily González 65'); Juan Sánchez, Carew. 4-4-2.

Team changes: Racing: Espina, Jaime, Manjarín, Mazzoni for Ramis, Ismael, Regueiro, Rushfeldt / Valencia: Cañizares, Angloma, Mendieta, Baraja, Aimar, Juan Sánchez, Carew for Palop, Björklund, Angulo, Deschamps, Albelda, Zahovic, Diego Alonso.

1-0. 49. Mazzoni. Headed across keeper after Mellberg laid ball in from right.
1-1. 91. Mendieta. Picked up ball in area, cut in and beat Ceballos.

A last minute goal from Mendieta gave Valencia a point to take them closer to a return to the Champions League for next season. The team were clearly affected by their defeat in this years final at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, with players looking tired and lacking in drive, particularly in the second half, after their long ordeal. Héctor Cúper decided to rest Carboni and Kily González, and with Ayala injured after that game, Djukic, Fabio Aurelio and Vicente all started this game. Gustavo Benítez changing his double pivot and bringing back Mazzoni, despite Rushfeldt's goal last week on his return to the side.

Valencia came out to a spontaneous standing ovation from the Santander crowd, well known for their appreciation of good football. That seemed to pick them up a bit, and for the first half hour they did most of the attacking, although they were unable to take advantage of any of the chances they created. Vicente shot wide when free in front of goal, Ceballos tipped a Mendieta effort on to the bar, and Sánchez and Carew wasted a good chance between them. Racing's only reply was a shot from Arzeno which Cañizares saved at close range, and a cross from Amavisca which Mazzoni failed to get on the end of. He did better though just after half time, powering Mellberg's cross down past Cañizares to open the scoring.

After that Valencia virtually disappeared from the game, despite the addition of three substitutes to replace tired legs. And then just when the Racing crowd were celebrating a victory, Mendieta picked up Carew's headed pass to round the keeper and guide the ball into the net with his left foot. The silence was deafening as the fans saw their hopes of first division football slide away in one blow. Despite going nine home games in a row without defeat, the surprise victories of Oviedo and Valladolid leave Racing four points away from safety, tied on points with Osasuna and Numancia, and they now have to win their last two games to have any hope of survival. Barcelona's defeat leaves Valencia four points clear of them in fourth place, and a victory at home to Deportivo next week will give them the fourth Champions League spot without having to worry about their last game at the Nou Camp. After losing two finals in a row, they certainly deserve another chance.