First Division - Day 27

Real Madrid 3 - Alavés 1

Real Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Hierro, Pavón, Roberto Carlos; Makelele, Solari; McManaman (Raúl 56'), Guti, Zidane (Flavio Conceiçao 67'); Morientes (Munitis 82'). 4-2-3-1.
Alavés: Kike; Geli, Téllez, Karmona, Ibon Begoña; Pablo, Turiel; Astudillo, Jordi Cruyff (Vucko 75'), Witschge (Mara 65'); Rubén Navarro (Magno 65'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Madrid: Solari, McManaman, Guti for Iván Helguera, Figo, Munitis / Alavés: Geli, Karmona, Turiel, Witschge for Lombardi, Coloccini, Llorens, Vucko.

0-1. 07. Witschge. Ran in to head past Casillas after Geli crossed in from right.
1-1. 45. Guti. Beat Kike with header after good run and pass by Salgado.
2-1. 61. Raúl. Controlled Zidane's pass on chest and lobbed ball over keeper.
3-1. 79. Hierro (penalty). After Raúl ruled to have been fouled by Geli.

Real Madrid consolidated their second position after coming from behind to beat Alavés. It was a game as they say of two halves, with the visitors taking command in a first half in which they should have been well ahead at the break, and the home side coming back with a courageous display in the last 45 (or rather 46) minutes. Madrid were starting to show the strain of playing twice a week, with Figo out injured (taking advantage to attend the birth of his second child), Helguera rested and Raúl left on the bench at the start after returning from injury. Their replacements though were not at the same level, with Solari playing out of position in the anchorman role and McManaman tending to wander in to the middle of the field rather than filling Figo's shoes down the right wing. Alavés needed a good result after three defeats in a row, and despite missing the suspended Coloccini and Llorens, they took the lead in the seventh minute when Witschge headed home Geli's cross for his first goal of the season.

For the next few minutes the Madrid defence were looking shaky, and both Rubén Navarro and Jordi Cruyff wasted chances of extending the lead. Then with the referee about to blow for half time Salgado played a one-two with Macca and set off on a weaving run through the penalty area, finally chipping the ball across from the line on to Guti's head for him to beat Kike. It was a bitter blow for the visitors, and rather than going in with a comfortable lead they found themselves level. Shortly after the interval Del Bosque decided it was time for Raúl to come on, and the Spanish international striker proved he was back, inspiring his side once again to victorywith another great performance. It only took the Pichichi five minutes to find the net, controlling Zidane's pass on his chest and lifting the ball over the advancing keeper before finishing off on the goal line.

His work done Zidane came off, breathing heavily after a blow to the ribs, and Solari settled in to his best position on the left wing as Flavio came in to the centre. A few minutes later Raúl fell in the penalty area under Geli's challenge, and although it appeared harmless referee Ramírez Domínguez had no doubts and pointed to the spot. In Figo's absence team captain Hierro stepped up to drive the ball past Kike from the spot, his first goal this season but the 102nd league goal of his career. It was all over, and Madrid's challenge for three titles stays on track. They stay a point behind leaders Valencia, and having virtually secured their pass through to the next round of the Champions League with a midweek win over Porto, they can at least rest some of their key players before next weekend's clash with Celta. Alavés though lose touch with the top group and they are being caught now by the peloton, with Valladolid (who they play next weekend) drawing level with them in joint eighth place.