First Division - Day 27

Valencia 2 - Barcelona 0

Valencia: Cañizares; Curro Torres, Ayala (Fabio Aurelio 86'), Pellegrino, Carboni; Albelda, De los Santos; Rufete, Aimar (Mista 78'), Kily González; Salva (Carew 61'). 4-2-3-1.
Barcelona: Reina; Puyol, Christanval, Frank De Boer, Sergi; Xavi, Cocu (Motta 69'); Rochemback (Overmars 55'), Luis Enrique (Saviola 59'), Gabri; Kluivert. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Valencia: Albelda, Rufete, Aimar, Kily González, Salva for Angulo, Baraja, Mista, Vicente, Juan Sánchez / Barcelona: Gabri, Rochemback, Xavi for Motta, Rivaldo, Saviola.

1-0. 17. Rufete. Took through ball from Kily on edge of area and shot over Reina.
2-0. 63. Aimar. Got ahead of Christanval to lift Carew's centre over Reina.

Valencia stay at the top of the table after their sixth game without defeat, a 2-0 victory over direct championship rivals Barcelona. Rafa Benítez put out what must be considered his strongest side for this game after resting key players last week, although several of the players on show did play in the Tuesday night UEFA cup victory over Servette. Barcelona too had a midweek European game, and after their disappointing Champions League draw with Roma, Rexach brought back young midfielders Xavi and Gabri to his starting line up. Rivaldo though was injured once again, and the manager opted to play an extra midfielder rather than bring in Saviola or Overmars to partner Kluivert up front.

It was to prove a hard ninety minutes, with Valencia's pressure game not allowing Barça any space on the ball. As a result there were few scoring opportunities, although when they came it was the home side who took their chances. Ex Barcelona midfielder Rufete opened Valencia's account with just over a quarter of an hour gone, running on to a Kily González through ball to lift a shot over the advancing Reina. Kluivert headed wide and Cañizares saved from Luis Enrique before the break, but eventually Rexach reverted to Saviola and Overmars to support a lonely looking Kluivert up front. If anything though they spent less time in their opponents' half after that, and Aimar felt hard done by when he was booked for diving after his eternal shadow Cocu brought him down in the area (incidentally the disciplinary committee agreed with him and cancelled the yellow card on appeal).

Aimar did get his just rewards though a few minutes later when he lunged ahead of Christanval to get a foot to Carew's cross, the ball taking a funny bounce and flying over Reina's head in to the net. It was the young Argentine's third goal in consecutive matches, and he is at last showing why his club invested so heavily in his future. After that the East coast side did what they are best at, slowing the pace down and not allowing their opponents back in to the game. They ended the day still a point ahead of Real Madrid, and just as importantly leaving Barcelona down in fifth place, now four points behind them. It was the Catalans first defeat in five games, and once again they proved that without Rivaldo they are a side void of ideas.