First Division - Day 24

Barcelona 2 - Real Sociedad 0

Barcelona: Reina; Puyol, Christanval, Frank De Boer, Sergi; Gabri (Saviola 48'), Rochemback, Xavi (Motta 70'), Cocu; Kluivert, Rivaldo. 4-4-2.
Real Sociedad: Westerveld; López Rekarte, Kvarme, Luiz Alberto, Aranzábal; Xabi Alonso (De Paula 63'), Idiakez (De Pedro 70'); Tayfun, Aranburu, Nihat; Kovacevic (Khokhlov 60'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Cocu for Motta / Real Sociedad: Aranburu, Nihat for Khokhlov, De Pedro.

1-0. 58. Rivaldo. Took return pass from Kluivert and drove ball past Westerveld..
2-0. 78. Saviola. Won ball off Luiz Alberto on edge of area and shot wide of keeper.

Barcelona made hard work of beating relegation candidates Real Sociedad, but in the end they ran out 2-0 winners thanks to second half goals from Rivaldo and substitute Saviola. Rexach picked a side virtually unchanged from the team which thrashed Tenerife at the weekend, with the only change the return of Cocu after his one match ban in place of Motta. Nihat came in for his first start for Real, together with Aranburu after he scored in the victory over Villarreal at the weekend. Barça started well, with Kluivert and then Gabri testing Westerveld, who kept them out for 180 minutes when playing for Liverpool in the UEFA cup semi-final last year. However the visitors came back with confidence, and their tweo Turkish players Nihat and Tayfun went close either side of half time.

Despite having been called up by Argentina (together with Bonano) for the international match with Wales, Saviola had been left on the bench for the first time at home in the league. However Rexach brought him on just after the break, and he gave the Catalan side more presence up front, beating Westerveld with a header only to see Xabi Alonso clear the ball off the line. Two minutes later Rivaldo and Kluivert worked a quick passing move through the defence for Rivaldo to drive a shot low past the Dutch keeper, who appeared to have been caught wrong footed. Toshack made three quick changes and one of his substitutes De Pedro hit a free kick over the bar. But then Saviola took advantage of a slip by Luiz Alberto to score the second, and substitute Motta almost added a third near the end. Barça are back, and having been down and out only two weeks ago they are now in fifth place within a point of their eternal rivals Real Madrid. Real Sociedad are back in trouble though, and with Tenerife picking up a point they are back at the bottom of the pile. As they say, a week is a long time in football.