First Division - Day 17

Celta Vigo 0 - Real Madrid 1

Celta: Cavallero; Velasco, Sergio, Cáceres, Sylvinho; Luccin, José Ignacio (Jesuli 76'); Gustavo López, Edu, Juanfran (Vagner 67'); Catanha (McCarthy 58'). 4-2-3-1.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Pavón, Iván Helguera, Roberto Carlos; Makelele (Cambiasso 78'), Flavio Conceiçao; Figo, Raúl, Zidane; Ronaldo (Guti 84'). 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Celta: Velasco, Sergio, José Ignacio, Juanfran for Coira, Berizzo, Giovanella, Jesuli / Madrid: Pavón for Hierro.

0-1. 06. Ronaldo. Following up after Cavallero failed to hold on to Raúl's shot.

Real Madrid closed the gap on Real Sociedad to one point after recording their sixth league win in a row, a 0-1 victory over Celta. Del Bosque's side have been climbing up the league now that the tiring European competitions have taken a break, and once again the manager could count on virtually a full strength side, missing only the suspended Hierro. Lotina has been having trouble putting together a back four recently, and to add to his problems Berizzo was suspended for two games on video evidence following a post-match incident with Deportivo's Naybet the week before. Velasco and Sergio were back from injury though, and with Mostovoi still having problems with his bad ankle Edu played behind Catanha and Juanfran came in on the left of midfield.

The first shot at goal came from Celta's Luccin, but soon afterwards the visitors took the lead, Ronaldo following up after Cavallero could only parry away an effort from Raúl. A few minutes later Raúl had a possible goal disallowed for offside, and Ronaldo should have scored again before half time when he got free in front of Cavallero but put his shot wide. After the break Raúl headed just over the bar after a good run, bicycle included, from Ronaldo, and Lotina decided to make changes, replacing an ineffective Catanha with Benni McCarthy and then bringing on Vagner and then Jesuli. Makelele took a ball full in the face and had to leave the field with concussion, seemingly unaware which planet he was on, and Cambiasso took over in midfield.

For a few minutes Celta looked like getting back in the game, Edu bringing the best save of the night out of Casillas and a few minutes later heading just wide from Jesuli's corner. But Madrid slowed the game down, and for the last three minutes the Gallicians didn't touch the ball once. By now news was coming through that leaders Real Sociedad were behind at Valencia, which meant that, for a few minutes at least, Del Bosque's side were leading the table by goal difference. In the end though the Basques saved a point at Mestalla, leaving Real Madrid in second position by the end of the weekend. That did mean however that a seven point gap has now opened up with third placed Valencia, and if the European champions keep up this sort of form it is surely only a matter of time before they take over the lead. Place your wager now before the bookies stop taking bets on that one.