David Beckham was
dropped by Real Madrid but the Spanish giants still saw their season
spiral into crisis as Espanyol handed them a 1-0 defeat just three days
after they were destroyed by Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League.
Playing without the injured Zinedine Zidane and Luis Figo, coach Jose
Antonio Camacho also dropped skipper Raul following the devastating loss
in Germany and called-up Juan Fran to replace Beckham.
Michael Owen was handed the first start of his Spanish career but was
eventually replaced by Fernando Morientes in the second half.
To make matters worse for Real, their Spanish international goalkeeper
Iker Casillas was injured in the warm-up and they finished the match in
Barcelona with 10 men and having seen Ronaldo miss a penalty.
"I didn't see Real Madrid play football," said Camacho.
"There were some players who were injured on Wednesday and it was also a
chance to rest others because they didn't have time to recover.
"The changes should have meant freshness in the side but it was a shock
to see so many errors. But I am not making any excuses for defeat.
"We have another match on Tuesday (at home to Osasuna) and we must
prepare for that. All the problems can be solved. The coach is
responsible for all defeats."
Espanyol seized their chance against a dispirited Real and four minutes
from the interval scored the only goal of the game when Argentinian Maxi
Rodriguez picked up a pass from skipper Raul Tamudo to score past Cesar.
Tamudo could have put his side in front earlier in the first half, but
he missed a twice-taken penalty.
Beckham was summoned from the bench 10 minutes into the second half and
sparked a better performance but Ronaldo squandered Real's best
opportunity when he also missed a penalty which he had won in the 50th
It got worse for Camacho's side with Argentinian defender Walter Samuel
sent off for a second yellow card and, despite carving out plenty of
opportunities, the 10 men of Real were unable to break through as
Espanyol went top of the table.
Espanyol only escaped relegation from the top flight on the final day of
In Saturday's other early match, Osasuna beat Real Betis 3-2 to go
second also with seven points.
Later, Valencia moved into a share of second place with a 3-1 victory
against Real Sociedad with Marco Di Vaio scoring twice and Mista
grabbing the third.
Mista had come on as a substitute for Argentinian international Pablo
Aimar who had limped off with an injury caused when he set up Di Vaio's
second goal in the 51st minute.