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Fine festive football in Bilbao

38,000 fans almost filled San Mames and were treated to a spectacular display* by Euskadi in the yearly Christmas game that recovered its festive spirit on its return to 1 The Cathedral'. Nigeria had promised to come with its full squad but in the end various of its top players were absent. Finidi George, Kanu and Okocha did not play for different reasons but Taribo West and Amunike as well as Mutiu from Real Sociedad were present. The case of Amunike is 'curious as Barcelona have registered him as physically unfit to play football. The undoubted quality of the Basque players and their commitment to the colours of the Ikurrma soon became evident and Julen Guerrero put the home side in front in the sixth minute. Euskadi dominated from that moment on but the 'Green Eagles' drew* level after 20 minutes with a goal from the edge of the area from Julius. It wasn't until the second half and after many substitutions that the team was able to convert its many chances into goals. Mendieta, De Paula (twice) and De Pedro all scored in a fine second half display of aggressive, attacking football that had the crowd calling for more. After the game Mutiu commented that, "Euskadi's performance hasn 't surprised me as the team has top players from the Spanish league." The anecdote of the game occurred when Sodje came on as a substitute and refused to take off his headscarf. Accustomed to wearing it each game in England, he didn't understand the referee's insistence in applying the regulations so strictly,


Four consecutive victories in the ACB give credibility to Lamas

 With both a trainer and a captain from the other side of the pond* and with a new, player that promises great things (and who also heralds from the land of the Gauchos), the latest version ofBaskonia has a diferent feel. Lamas, Espil and Oberto (as well as No-cioni who is still waiting for his Italian nationalisation papers) give TAU a distinct touch in a league where the quality foreigner generally comes from East Europe. By next year, when Nocioni finally sorts out* his papers and Scola returns from his loan period in Girona, Baskonia will almost be able to play with a completely Argentine team. On the court the Lamas era has seen a bad start followed by a solid improvement* that now makes Baskonia one of the favourites again to win both league and cup. Lamas has imposed more order in the team's play and Bennet has been one of the improvements. He now has a reference on the bench* that helps him control the game (and his instincts) better. Oberto arrived to fill the interior and seems to have adapted quickly to the ACB. His rebounds and baskets will make or break the new TAU. More victories like that against Real Madrid and a good performance in the King's Cup (i.e. winning it) would confirm what promises to be a winning 'Argentine Connection'


The Gipuzkoan surprises the experts and wins easily (22-11)

 Many anaylists described the match as a battle between two different styles. Eugi, from the old school, against Unanue, more aggre-sive and one-handed yet more spectacular. The anaylists were also unanimous in the prediction of the result - Eugi to win. On the day the left hand of Unanue was worth* more than the two arms of Eugi. The initial betting* was in favour of the Navarran (1,000 to 200 duros) and he started better than Unanue (2-6). However, it seemed that Unanue wanted revenge for the defeat against Eugi earlier in the tournament and he started to serve* well and play aggressively at the front of the court. He played the two walls cleverly and soon the score was very different - 14-9. Eugi was never at the same level as Unanue and his face was full of disappointment when the Gipuzkaon finished brilliantly to win 22-11. The representative of the old school congratulated the delighted winner, who added the short court txapela to his list of titles.
Manuel Ruiz de Lopera opened the "Manuel Ruiz de Lopera" stadium on New Year's Day. The president ofBetis declared that it was the "best stadium in the world." The work on the stadium will not be completed for another two years.

Pedro Gonzalez, cycling commentator on TVE, died of a heart attack at his home in Torrelodones just as the New Year was starting. The commentator, who started his carrer on Radio Nacional Espanola before becoming the face of cycling on TVE, had celebrated the New Year with his family at home. Pedro Delgado, colleague of Gonzalez on TVE, described him as a "kind, hard-working person owho was agreat specialist in the sport"

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