First Division - Day 37

Betis 0 - Deportivo La Coruña 3

Betis: Gaspercic; Tais (Varela 80'), Juanito, Rivas, Luis Fernández; Ito, Cañas; Joaquín, Capi, Denilson (Merino 68'); Joao Tomas (Amato 68'). 4-2-3-1.
Deportivo: Molina; Scaloni, César, Djorovic (Romero 10'), Capdevila; Mauro Silva, Sergio; Víctor (Makaay 30'), Valerón, Fran; Diego Tristán (Héctor 65'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Betis: Gaspercic, Cañas, Joaquín for Prats, Benjamín, Varela / Deportivo: César, Djorovic, Capdevila, Diego Tristán for Héctor, Naybet, Romero, Makaay.

0-1. 18. Diego Tristán. Took short pass from Valerón and shot low past keeper.
0-2. 58. Diego Tristán. Ran on to Fran's cross to place shot past Gaspercic.
0-3. 61. Valerón. Received return pass from Tristán and beat keeper.

Deportivo La Coruña ensured their place in next year's Champions League with a flattering 0-3 victory over Betis. The home side came in to the game only two points behind their rivals, and a victory could have lifted them into the top four and left the Gallicians out of the top European competition. Irureta was therefore not going to take any chances, and put out his best available side, with César and Djorovic both returning just in time from injury, as Naybet's one match suspension would otherwise have left the side without a central defender. Djorovic was returning after a fifteen week layoff, but he only lasted ten minutes before he had to leave the field again, Romero having to take his place despite not starting the game after failing a late fitness test.

Betis were missing their keeper Toni Prats, who had been suffering from back pains all week, and Belgium's Ronnie Gaspercic made his league debut for Juande Ramos' side. Joaquín also returned from injury, and he was the inspiration of his side in the opening minutes which Betis dominated. However his front man Joao Tomas was not of the same class, and he wasted two or three early chances which the young winger and his opposite number Denilson set him up with.

Against a team like Depor that can be fatal, and soon afterwards the visitors took the lead after Diego Tristán finished off a good team move, Valerón taking Sergio's pass and finding the striker for him to shoot wide of the keeper. Shortly before half time Denilson was booked for diving in the area when he felt he should have had a penalty after being brought down by César, and a few minutes after the restart Betis were left with ten men after Cañas picked up a second yellow card. If that made referee Rodríguez Santiago unpopular with the crowd it was nothing compared to what happened seven minutes later, Tristán setting off from an offside position to latch on to Fran's pass and score his second of the night and his twenty first league goal of the season, virtually ensuring the Pichichi trophy.

Tristán started his career playing for the Betis junior teams but left in a bit of a cloud, and after he celebrated the goal without any shade of remorse he was whistled at every time he touched the ball after that. Not a lot phases him though, and three minutes later he helped Valerón deliver the killer blow by putting a return pass into the path of the midfielder for him to score the third. The home fans though were in a festival mood, and despite the defeat they kept urging on their side. Molina had to make a couple of good saves from Capi and Joaquín, and Amato, who had replaced the disappointing Tomas, hit the post near the end. They deserved better, but at least they are now sure of a place in next season's UEFA cup, not a bad haul for their first year back in the top flight. The fans called at the end for the club president to renew the contract of manager Juande Ramos, the man who has given them this success. Ruiz de Lopera would be foolish not to listen to them.