First Division - Day 17

Málaga 0 - Barcelona 0

Málaga: Contreras; Josemi, Fernando Sanz, Roteta, Valcarce; Gerardo, Miguel Angel (Manu 72'), Sandro (Leko 72'), Musampa; Darío Silva, Dely Valdés (Canabal 80'). 4-4-2.
Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Gerard (Oleguer 12'), Cocu, Gabri; Rochemback (Riquelme 61'), Xavi, Iniesta, Motta; Kluivert, Overmars (Saviola 67'). 4-4-2.

Team changes: Málaga: Sandro for Romero / Barcelona: Gabri for Frank De Boer.

Goals: None.

Málaga and Barcelona drew 0-0 in a bad tempered match at the Rosaleda stadium. With De Boer suspended and Andersson, Christanval, Reiziger and Fernando Navarro injured, Van Gaal lined up with a makeshift defence which included only one recognised defender, Puyol, who played at right back to snuff out the threat of the dangerous Musampa. The versatile Gabri was moved to left back, and the central defensive positions were taken by midfielders Cocu and Gerard, who were given the difficult task of keeping tabs on the "Double D", Dely Valdés and Darío Silva. Gerard at least had shown promise the week before, but bad luck struck again and he landed awkwardly in a challenge with the game only twelve minutes old, limping off with a knee ligament injury which could keep him out for a couple of months. Twenty-two year old B team defender Oleguer took his place, making his first team debut in the league.

Scoring chances were few and far between in the first half, although Motta headed a Xavi free kick wide in the first minute and Dely Valdés shot inches wide of Bonano's post three minutes later. Everything dried up after that though, and although Málaga did get the better of the play, neither side did much to entertain a crowd which included the Spanish and Dutch team coaches Iñaki Sáez and Dick Advocaat. The home fans did come alive though to shout and wave handkerchiefs at referee Puentes Leira after he turned down penalty claims when Motta appeared to foul Fernando Sanz in the area.

The second half trundled along in the same vein for a while, and Van Gaal finally decided to bring on Riquelme and then Saviola. Riquelme in particular stirred things up, and it was his pass that set up Kluivert for him to test Contreras virtually for the first time in the game. Xavi too livened up with the new men on the park, and he sent a shot from outside of the area just wide of goal a few minutes later. With ten minutes to go Peiró decided to give a run out to Canabal, who was just returning after a long injury, but nothing changed. Málaga failed to win for the eighth game in a row, and they ended the weekend in fourteenth, in the middle of a group of seven teams separated by a single point. Barça drop a place to ninth, the chance of closing the gap on some of the teams above them once again going begging. They have to start improving soon, or they could find themselves out of European competitions for the first time in their history.