First Division - Day 24

Real Madrid 3 - Alavés 0

Madrid: Casillas; Michel Salgado, Sergio Ramos, Mejía, Raúl Bravo; Diogo, Guti; Beckham (Cicinho 73'), Baptista (Raúl 67'), Robinho; Ronaldo (Cassano 60'). 4-2-3-1.
Alavés: Costanzo; Edu Alonso, Pellegrino, Juanito, Coromina; De Lucas (Georgiev 73'), Astudillo, Lacen; Bodipo (Jandro 71'), Nené; Aloisi. 4-3-2-1.

Team changes: Madrid: Mejía, Raúl Bravo, Beckham, Diogo, Baptista for Woodgate, Roberto Carlos, Pablo García, Cicinho, Zidane / Alavés: Pellegrino, Lacen for Sarriegi, Carpintero.

1-0. 06. Guti. Latched on to Robinho pass to shoot into bottom corner of net.
2-0. 10. Robinho. Following up after Baptista overhead kick came back off post.
3-0. 76. Cicinho. Picked up pass from Cassano and rounded defender to score.

Real Madrid kept in touch with leaders Barcelona after a comfortable 3-0 win over Alavés. The Vitoria based side were fielding their fourth manager of the season after Juan Carlos Oliva was controversially sacked midweek by president Dmitri Piterman for "insubordination" after refusing to change his tactics for this match, and Mario Luna stepped up from the technical staff to take over, with his president as usual alongside him on the bench.

Within ten minutes though Piterman's attacking line-up was found wanting as Madrid went two up, Guti firing in the first from the edge of the area after a good team move ended with Robinho laying the ball across. And Robinho himself got the second with a shot on the follow up after a spectacular move between Guti and Baptista, the Brazilian controlling Guti's chipped pass and firing an acrobatic overhead kick against the foot of the post.

With 80 minutes still to go the game was as good as over, and a packed crowd, inspired by the midweek performance in the cup, were expecting another big score. But with an important Champions League match coming up against Arsenal midweek, Madrid took their foot off the accelerator, controlling the game but not over-stretching themselves from there on. Baptista could still have got a third when he connected with Beckham's cross but failed to beat Costanzo, but the visitors also had their chances, Aloisi in particular testing Casillas with a header before the break and Nené just missing the target with a free kick after the restart.

López Caro rested some of his key players after the interval, Cassano coming on for an inactive Ronaldo (who was whistled off by some sections of the crowd) and Raúl making his first appearance in three months in place of Baptista, entering the pitch to an ovation from the fans. Soon afterwards Cicinho came on for the injured Beckham, and almost immediately he made his mark, scoring his side's third goal after picking up a pass from Cassano.

Astudillo missed a chance to get a consolation goal for his side when Casillas dropped a long shot at his feet, and Raúl got the ball in the net at the other end only for the strike to be ruled out for a dubious offside. The last chance of the game fell to Aloisi, but Casillas dealt with it without too many problems, and soon afterwards the final whistle went. Madrid had their sixth victory in a row, and move up to second pending Valencia's game on Sunday. Alavés go home with nothing, as would be expected at the Bernabeu, but the big question is whether the change of a manager who had picked up ten points in five games is going to cost them dearly in the end. Only time will tell.