First Division - Day 16

Barcelona 3 - Recreativo Huelva 0

Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Gerard, Frank De Boer; Rochemback, Xavi, Cocu, Motta; Iniesta; Kluivert (Dani 76'), Overmars (Saviola 65'). 3-4-1-2.
Recreativo: Luque; Javi García, Loren, Zelaya, Espinola; Galán (Quique Romero 84'), Camacho, Cubillo, Viqueira (Iker Begoña 58'); Oscar Arpón (Benítez 75'); Raúl Molina. 4-4-1-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Puyol, Rochemback, Gerard for Gabri, Christanval, Mendieta / Recreativo: Luque, Loren, Zelaya, Galán, for Almunia, Alex, Yago, Gallego.

1-0. 09. Rochemback. Hit long shot from outside of area into top corner of net.
2-0. 25. Loren (own goal). Deflected shot from Kluivert past Luque.
3-0. 80. Cocu. Took return pass from Motta and shot low past keeper.

After victories for the teams below them earlier in the weekend, Barcelona started their game against bottom club Recreativo Huelva in thirteenth place, one of the lowest in their history. In the end though they ran out 3-0 winners, and with many clubs bunched together in mid-table they climbed their way back up to eighth place. Club president Joan Gaspart was more relaxed after an opposition group had failed to collect enough signatures for a motion of censure, and the crowd returned in a better mood having had two weeks to cool down. Van Gaal's main problems were in defence, where late injuries to Christanval and Gabri had left him without reinforcements, and he drafted in Gerard as a makeshift central defender alongside Frank De Boer and the returning Puyol. B team youngster Oleguer was included in the substitutes as cover, but shortly after half time he left the bench to cross the road and play for his own team, who had a match against Castellón in the Mini-stadium.

Rochemback was also making a rare start, and he took advantage nine minutes in to the game to open the scoring, taking a pass from youngster Iniesta to fire a long shot into the top corner of Luque's net. Iniesta was playing his first league game in the Nou Camp, but he appeared to be a veteran as he set up his colleagues time and time again, Kluivert shooting over the bar on one occasion and Motta bringing a good save out of Luque on another. The keeper was to play an important part in preventing a big scoreline, and he closed down Overmars when free in front of goal a few minutes later. He could do nothing though midway through the half when Kluivert's shot ricocheted off Zelaya and then Loren, putting the home side two in front.

Recreativo did have a chance to pull one back before the break when Oscar Arpón broke free, but the ex Barcelona B midfielder ran the ball too far under Bonano's challenge and shot wide. Otherwise though they were over-run, and Barça should have gone further ahead when Kluivert was brought down in the area by Zelaya, who was making his debut for the visitors after signing during the winter break. The Paraguayan defender was shown a red card in the incident, but Xavi drove his kick against the post to let Luque off the hook.

After that it was one way traffic, with Motta hitting the crossbar with a long shot and Luque saving again from Kluivert, Motta and substitute Saviola. Finally Cocu did get a third, taking a return pass from Motta to beat the keeper, and the unfortunate Xavi hit the woodwork again with a late free kick. It was just what the doctor ordered, and with some difficult games coming up, Van Gaal's side can start the month with confidence. Recreativo though appear to be doomed already, and they are now firmly anchored at the bottom, now nine points away from salvation.