First Division - Day 34

Villarreal 2 - Celta 1

Villarreal: López Vallejo; Berruet, Quique Alvarez (Escoda 65'), Ballesteros, Arruabarrena; Amor, Galca (Palermo 68'); Guayre, Jorge López (Gracia 80'), Calleja; Víctor. 4-2-3-1.
Celta: Cavallero; Méndez (Gustavo López 78'), Cáceres, Sergio, Sylvinho; Luccin, Vagner; Karpin, Edu (Maurice 83'), Jesuli (Mostovoi 78'); Catanha. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Villarreal: Berruet for Xavi Roca / Celta: Edu for Mostovoi.

0-1. 62. Jesuli. Won ball on left of goal and fired in shot off Ballesteros.
1-1. 71. Víctor. Struck direct free kick from outside area into corner of net.
2-1. 77. Víctor (penalty). After Catanha pushed down Palermo in area.

A controversial match between Villarreal and Celta, where angry fans threw objects at referee Rodríguez Santiago and his assistants, and the home side club president Fernando Roig came on to the pitch to protest about the official's decisions. They needn't have bothered though, as in the end Villarreal ran out 2-1 winners to move away from the bottom spots. The flashpoint came early in the second half when Rodríguez awarded a penalty to the visitors after Amor had tripped a too rapid Vagner. Earlier on he had turned down two penalty appeals by the home side, the first by Sergio on Víctor before the break and then by Cavallero on Jorge López after the restart, and he then sent off Berruet for a supposed foul on Jesuli which the Celta winger milked to the full. Luckily for the hosts (and maybe for the referee) Catanha's spot kick hit the bar and bounced away, but Roig stayed down in the players tunnel and continued to protest despite oders by the referee to the ground's security staff to escort him away.

None of this was apparent at the beginning, with the visitors looking to get back into the Champions League spots dominating the calm opening minutes. Arruabarrena pulled out an important tackle on Karpin as he was lining up to score, although later in the half Víctor and Jorge López caused some problems for Cavallero in the Celta goal. Five minutes after Catanha's penalty miss the visitors scored, Jesuli coming back from an offside position to win the ball off the defence and fire in a shot which took a wicked deflection off Ballesteros. At that point Villarreal were in the bottom three, and manager Víctor Muñoz resorted to his talisman Martín Palermo, making his first appearance since breaking his leg several months ago. Within a couple of minutes he made his mark, winning a free kick on the edge of the area which Víctor stuck in the back of the net with a spectacular strike. Then with a quarter of an hour to go he fell under Catanha's challenge and ironically got his side a more than dubious penalty which Víctor once again converted. Víctor Fernández threw on Mostovoi and Gustavo López, and then French striker Maurice, but it was all over and the Gallicians lose ground on fourth placed Barcelona, who visit the Balaidos stadium next week. With things so tight at the bottom Villarreal jump up to thirteenth place, and they could even win a place now in the Intertoto cup if things go in the favour from now on. And with Palermo back they just might.