First Division - Day 19

Real Sociedad 1 - Real Madrid 0

Real Sociedad: Alberto; López Rekarte, Kvarme, Schürrer, Potillón; Alkiza (Mikel Alonso 75'), Aranburu (Xabi Alonso 58'); Karpin, Nihat (De Paula 79'), Gabilondo; Kovacevic. 4-2-3-1.
Real Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Pavón, Raúl Bravo, Roberto Carlos; Guti (Solari 72'), Iván Helguera; Figo, Raúl, Zidane; Ronaldo. 4-2-3-1.

Team changes: Real: Kovacevic for De Paula / Madrid: Guti for Beckham.

1-0. 63. Karpin. Whipped ball back into net after Casillas punched out Nihat cross.

Real Madrid dropped behind Valencia to second place after they were beaten 1-0 by Real Sociedad, the Basque side's second win in a row after a run of nine league games without a victory. With Beckham still not recovered from the cut on the ankle from the week before, Guti came in to an otherwise full strength side. On the other bench, local manager Denoueix decided to stick to his winning line up, except up front where Kovacevic came back in place of De Paula. That meant that both Xabi Alonso and Aranzábal started the game on the bench.

The Basque side needed a win, especially as Celta's victory earlier in the evening had left them back down in the relegation spots. However neither side really shone in the first 45 minutes, with Raúl rushing a shot and putting the ball over the bar and Nihat going close a couple of times with a free kick and a header, but otherwise nothing of note.

Alberto saved well from Raúl early in the second half as Madrid started the better of the two, and Denoueix turned to Xabi Alonso, and when Alkiza got injured later on, to his brother Mikel. Soon after Xabi came on the home side scored what was to be the only goal of the game, the usually reliable Casillas failing to get a clean punch on Nihat's long cross under pressure from Kovacevic, and only succeeding in leaving the ball to Karpin for him to fire it back into the net.

Kovacevic could have made it two near the end when Salgado stopped his header on the line, but the locals had done enough to keep them out of the bottom three for another week. Madrid miss out on the honourary title of winter champions, given to the team at the top of the table at the half way point in the league, and the long season already seems to be taking it's toll.