First Division - Day 15

Alavés 2 - Barcelona 0

Alavés: Herrera; Geli (Kanu 83'), Coloccini, Téllez, Llorens; Turiel, Pablo; Astudillo, Magno (Mara 70'), Ibon Begoña; Rubén Navarro (Vucko 92'). 4-2-3-1.
Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Christanval, Andersson (Rochemback 46'), Frank De Boer; Gabri, Xavi (Saviola 63'), Cocu; Kluivert; Rivaldo, Overmars (Gerard 46'). 4-3-1-2.

Team changes: Alavés: Téllez, Llorens, Turiel for Karmona, Ochoa, Jordi Cruyff / Barcelona: Christanval, Cocu, Rivaldo for Coco, Rochemback, Saviola.

1-0. 22. Llorens (penalty). After Andersson held on to Rubén Navarro in area.
2-0. 62. Ibon Begoña. Controlled clearance outside area and drove shot into net.

Alavés moved to the top of the first division for only the second time in their history and the first time in 71 years with a surprisingly easy victory over Barcelona. With Llorens and Téllez back from their one match bans, Mané was able to field the first choice back four who have only let in nine goals all season, and with Coloccini once again commanding the penalty area Barcelona hardly managed a shot at goal all night. Rexach's side could also have gone top had they won, but having only picked up two points from their last four away games, the manager made changes, with De Boer starting at left back and Rivaldo, now recovered from his cold, coming in to the starting line up for Saviola. The Brazilian star was lucky to be playing at all, with a possible three match ban for punching Bilbao's Lacruz put back another week pending more evidence.

The Vitoria based side took the lead midway through the first half from the penalty spot when Andersson was ruled by referee Medina Cantalejo to have held back Rubén Navarro in the penalty area. Llorens beat Bonano with a low kick for his fifth of the season, and Turiel almost made it two before the break with a shot against the post. Barça's defence were all over the place, with nobody sure where they were playing, and Rexach added to the confusion taking off Andersson and Overmars to bring on Gerard and Rochemback, Gabri switching to right back and Puyol switching to the left. Bonano kept them out for a bit, but Ibon Begoña beat the Argentine keeper again with a long shot from outside of the area a quarter of an hour in to the second half.

Finally Saviola came on, but Herrera still had little work to do as his defence rallied round for the final few minutes to ensure the victory. Alavés got their reward, and are apparently the leaders with the least number of points ever in this closest of leagues. Little do they care, and Mané has his head screwed on sufficiently to recognise that this is only a passing moment. Barcelona drop out of the top spots down to eighth, and critics pointed out that Rexach's record this season is worse than Serra Ferrer's at this stage last year. Gaspart may not be so benevolent this time.