First Division - Day 25

Valencia 0 - Barcelona 1

Valencia: Cañizares; Curro Torres, Ayala, Marchena, Carboni; Albelda (Cannobio 84'), Baraja; Rufete (Angulo 78'), Mista, Vicente; Oliveira (Sissoko 63'). 4-2-3-1.
Barcelona: Víctor Valdés; Oleguer, Puyol, Márquez (Oscar López 34'), Van Bronckhorst; Xavi, Motta (Gerard 70'), Cocu; Luis García, Saviola (Luis Enrique 91'), Ronaldinho. 4-3-3.

Team changes: Valencia: Curro Torres, Rufete, Oliveira for Garrido, Angulo, Aimar / Barça: Víctor Valdés, Oleguer, Motta for Jorquera, Reiziger, Davids.

0-1. 77. Gerard. Came from behind to head Xavi's corner down past Cañizares.

Barcelona give their arch-rivals Real Madrid a helping hand by beating second placed Valencia 0-1, and Rafa Benítez's side are now five points adrift of the leaders. The Catalans came in to the match full of confidence after four wins in a row, and Ronaldinho almost caught Cañizares off guard with a long free kick in the first half. Saviola had a goal disallowed for a borderline offside after Ronaldinho put him through a few minutes later, and the home side's only real chance came when Xavi headed Baraja's effort off the line following a corner on the stroke of half time. The bad news for the visitors though was an injury to Márquez, who was stretchered off the pitch after a clash with his own keeper Víctor Valdés.

Frank Rijkaard's side kept up the pressure after the break, with Ronaldinho bringing a good save out of Cañizares and Luis García shooting just wide across goal. Valencia were missing the injured Aimar, and Benítez pulled off an ineffective Oliveira to put on Mali international Sissoko. But it was Barcelona substitute Gerard who made the difference, the ex Valencia midfielder rising to head Xavi's corner down past the keeper for the only goal of the match, but refusing to celebrate out of respect for his old side.

Referee Rubinos Pérez incurred the wrath of the crowd ten minutes from the end when he sent off Carboni after giving him a second booking for taking a free kick too quickly, the controversial penalty decision which cost them two points in Madrid the week before all too fresh in their minds. But in the end they were bettered by a Barcelona side who consolidate their fourth position, who on this form could even close up on third placed Deportivo who their opponents next weekend. Before that though both Barça and Valencia have important UEFA cup ties.