First Division - Day 32

Barcelona 1 - Las Palmas 1

Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Christanval (Geovanni 60'), Frank De Boer, Coco; Luis Enrique (Gabri 70'), Xavi (Motta 70'), Cocu, Overmars; Kluivert, Saviola. 4-4-2.
Las Palmas: Orlando Quintana; Angel, Olías, Sarasúa, Paqui; Samways, Jayo; Jorge, Carmelo (Rubén 73'), Pablo Lago (Alberto 78'); Orlando (Sequeiros 65'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Frank De Boer, Saviola for Abelardo, Gabri / Las Palmas: Olías, Sarasúa, Paqui, Pablo Lago for Edu Alonso, Schurrer, Alvaro, Josico.

1-0. 20. Luis Enrique. Controlled lifted Kluivert pass and placed ball wide of keeper.
1-1. 54. Orlando. Volleyed ball over Bonano after cross in from right by Carmelo.

Report by C.P.Rune

Barcelona´s chances of the title ended with a whimper rather than a bang as a plucky Las Palmas side came away from Nou Camp with a rare point. With 11 defeats from 15 games away from home Las Palmas were expected to provide an easy three points for Barca to keep their slim chances of overhauling the league leaders alive.

The game started slowly with Barcelona probing away trying to break down an organised midfield working hard to protect a young defence. Early shots by Kluivert and Overmars failed to trouble the keeper but the breakthrough came in the 21st minute following neat work between Kluivert and Saviola. The move down the middle pulled the fullbacks in to the middle and as Saviola went for a return ball Kluivert cleverly lifted the ball to Luis Enrique ghosting in on the right. He took the ball down well and cooly slotted the ball home. Two minutes later the referee tried his best to put the game beyond Las Palmas by awarding Barca a free kick on the edge of the 6 yard box following a sliced clearance by a defender that ended up in the keeper´s hands. The ball was slipped across the goal for Saviola who for a moment had some space but his shot was closed down well and the ball went harmlessly for a corner.

Four minutes later Luis Enrique should have opened the floodgates and set Barca up for the large victory their domination hinted at. Once again Overmars made merry down the left hand side and his smart cut back was cleverly dummied by both Saviola and Kluivert. Luis Enrique strolling in at the far post sent the ball back across goal and it would have been easier to score that hit the bar. With that chance gone Barcelona failed to make any other clear cut chances before half time and the game petered out tamely.

The second half started promisingly with Overmars finding space on the left. His cross was once again dummied by Saviola but Kluivert spurned the chance from the edge of the box as he was unable to keep an awkward volley below the bar.

With only one goal and chances coming and going Las Palmas were always had some hope and a clue to what might follow as given in the 6th minute of the second period as a harmless cross was allowed to float across Barcelona´s penalty area and as it was sent back in a flicked header from Sarasua grazed the cross bar. Two minutes later the scores were level, a long clearance from the heart of the Barcelona defence was headed back to Orlando who looked suspiciously offside as the defence pushed up. The danger appeared to have passed but the ball was picked up by Jorge who drove into the right side of the penalty area and pulled the ball back to Orlando who had drifted between the central defenders and sent a crisp volley past a helpless Bonano.

Kluivert managed to talk himself into the referee´s notebook protesting to the linesman but the goal was always going to stand and the home team once again had a hill to climb. Luis Enrique brought a fine save from Orlando in the Las Palmas goal as he stretched well to a smart chip from Saviola deep into the penalty area and Puyol drove the resulting loose ball into the side netting.

In the 17th minute of the second half Rexach made a tactical switch to try and give the inreasingly influential Saviola more room down the channels by bringing Geovanni on and telling him to hug the right touchline. With Overmars wide left he was hoping to pull gaps in the Las Palmas defence and although the chances came and went the keeper, Orlando, held firm. Saviola´s intelligent ball slipped out to Overmars was whipped in to the feet of Kluivert who crashed the ball against the keeper´s legs. He then somehow kept out a close range header from Saviola and his finest moment came in the 36th minute. Once again, Overmars was the architect, his early cross was beautifully headed back by Saviola into the path of Kluivert whose shot into the ground from outside the area bounced up awkwardly but was met with a strong right hand as Orlando once again kept Barca at bay.

6 minutes from the end Kluivert summed up Barcelona´s frustrating night, and perhaps their whole season, as he failed to control the ball on the edge of the area and as the ball was carried forward by a defender he needlessly hacked him down from behind and the resulting yellow card saw him heading for the tunnel. His exclusive use of the shower gel lasted only 4 minutes as Angel found once again that Saviola was too quick for him and a second yellow card saw him heading for the dressing room.

Barcelona had enough chances to put the result beyond doubt but a combination of bad luck and good defending saw a young but hardworking Las Palmas side leave the Catalan capital with the point they deserved.