First Division - Day 18

Real Sociedad 1 - Celta Vigo 0

Real Sociedad: Westerveld; López Rekarte, Kvarme, Schürrer, Aranzábal; Jauregi, Boris (Aranburu 61'); Karpin, Nihat (Tayfun 84'), De Pedro (Barkero 74'); Kovacevic. 4-2-3-1.
Celta: Cavallero; Velasco (Coira 70'), Jorge Rodríguez, Luccin, Juanfran, Sylvinho; Vagner, Giovanella (Catanha 70'), José Ignacio; Gustavo López (Jesuli 84'), Edu. 5-3-2.

Team changes: Real: De Pedro for Gabilondo / Celta: Jorge Rodríguez, Vagner, Giovanella for Sergio, Cáceres, Catanha.

1-0. 65. De Pedro. Long shot from left wing which bounced past Cavallero.

Leaders Real Sociedad opened the gap over Real Madrid to three points after defeating Celta 1-0 in the Anoeta stadium. The Basque team continued their incredible run which has seen them unbeaten in the first 18 matches of the season, with Spanish international De Pedro returning to the side to score the only goal of the game in the second half. It was a dull game though, with visiting manager Miguel Angel Lotina cobbling together a defensive side without any recognised striker, looking to defend and surprise their opponents on the counterattack. Lotina was missing all four of his central defenders through injury or suspension, and he lined up with B team defender Jorge Rodríguez, left back Juanfran and midfielder Luccin in the heart of a back five.

For a while Celta's defensive tactics worked, and it was not until late in the first half that the Basques created any real attempts at goal, Nihat cracking a shot from wide on the right against the post and then winning the ball off Juanfran but failing to get round Cavallero. Real finally got the goal they were looking for though twenty minutes in to the second half, but even then they were fortunate that De Pedro's long shot was read badly by Cavallero, the ball surprisingly bouncing past him into the net.

Up to then the Gallicians had not even had a sight of Westerveld's goal, and Lotina finally brought on Catanha. Finally they started to get back into the match, and after the keeper saved well from Gustavo López, referee Megia Dávila awarded them a penalty when Schürrer pushed over Catanha as he went to meet a cross from the left. However Westerveld was well informed, and he dived low to his right to save Luccin's kick. Real are one game away from being proclaimed winter champions (honorary title for the team at the top of the table halfway through the league), and Celta stay in sixth place despite not having scored one goal in their opening three games of 2003, all of which they have lost.