First Division - Day 18

Barcelona 2 - Valencia 4

Barcelona: Bonano; Puyol, Frank De Boer, Cocu, Gabri (Mendieta 46'); Rochemback (Riquelme 38'), Xavi, Iniesta, Motta (Saviola 68'); Kluivert, Overmars. 4-4-2.
Valencia: Cañizares; Garrido, Ayala, Pellegrino, Fabio Aurelio; Baraja (Palop 43'), Albelda; Rufete, Aimar (De los Santos 58'), Vicente (Carboni 77') ; Carew. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Barcelona: Frank De Boer for Gerard / Valencia: Cañizares, Garrido, Albelda, Aimar, Vicente for Palop, Curro Torres, Carboni, Marchena, Mista.

0-1. 13. Aimar. Turned ball into net after Baraja intercepted Rochemback pass.
0-2. 26. Carew. Headed down into bottom corner of net from left-sided corner.
1-2. 38. Motta. Ran on to Xavi's pass to shoot wide of Palop.
1-3. 83. Fabio Aurelio. Pulled ball back past De Boer and steered shot into net.
1-4. 88. Rufete. Took Albelda pass on right of goal and shot low across Bonano.
2-4. 90. Kluivert. Turned ball wide of Palop from Overmars pass.

Barcelona were plunged into another crisis after losing at home to ten man Valencia 2-4. Fans called for the heads of president Joan Gaspart and manager Louis Van Gaal after the match, and a group of supporters broke doors and windows in the club's installations out of frustration. After picking up seven points in three games Van Gaal decided to stick to the same starting line up as the week before, with Mendieta finally left on the bench again after complaining to the press midweek that he was playing out of position. Their opponents Valencia were looking to get their championship challenge back on track after losing to Deportivo and Real Madrid and drawing with Real Sociedad, and they were back to something like full strength, with Cañizares, Aimar and Vicente all returning to the side.

Things started badly for the home side when Baraja intercepted a bad back pass by Rochemback in the thirteenth minute to set up Aimar for the opening goal, the Argentine midfielder rolling the ball into the net despite the best efforts of Frank De Boer to stop it. A few minutes later Bonano had to make a reflex save to stop Aimar scoring again, and shortly before the half hour mark Carew made it two, the defence giving him oceans of space to place a header wide of the keeper from a corner. The white handkerchiefs started to come out in protest, and Van Gaal responded by taking off a disgusted Rochemback to bring on Riquelme. A minute later Barcelona got one back, Motta running on to Xavi's through ball to shoot low past the advancing Cañizares, and when the keeper got himself sent off on the stroke of half time for bringing down Kluivert a yard outside of the area it looked as if there was still hope.

At half time Van Gaal decided to go for broke, and brought on Mendieta who immediately whipped the ball across an inch too far for Kluivert to connect. The visitors came forward for a while, and Riquelme had to clear off the line from an Ayala header, but Benítez eventually played safe, and having sacrificed Baraja to bring on second keeper Palop, he went back to his old plans and pulled off Aimar, De los Santos taking ther second anchorman position. Barça played their last card, Saviola coming on for Motta, but even with all the stars on the field there was no way through.

Then in the last seven minutes came a double killer blow, Fabio Aurelio taking Carew's pass to make himself space and shoot low past Bonano, and then ex Barcelona midfielder Rufete running on to a wide pass from Albelda to score again. Kluivert got a late consolation goal before the final whistle, but the fans didn't even cheer. They made it clear they want a change, and another difficult week is ahead for club president Joan Gaspart. Valencia had done what they wanted, taking advantage of their opponents disarray to end their bad run, and they consolidate their third position in the table.