Keller heroic for Rayo Vallecano, saves late penalty in 1-1 draw with Barcelona.(Friday, December 24, 1999) -- United States starting goalkeeper Kasey Keller has already earned the reputation this season in Spain's Primera Division of coming up big in big matches. And that was the case Wednesday night when upstart Rayo Vallecano held onto fourth place in the standings with a 1-1 home draw with powerful Barcelona.
Keller stopped a penalty kick in the 88th minute to preserve the tie.
It had been a bad week for Barcelona, what with the public row between Rivaldo -- the European "Footballer of the Year" -- and Barca's coach, Dutchman Louis Van Gaal, who kept Rivaldo out of the lineup, saying he was not enough of a team player. But it was widely believed Van Gaal needed the win over Rayo, so Barcelona went all out from the start.
But Rayo sent the home crowd into a frenzy by starting the scoring in the 25th minute, on a blast from Luis Cembranos that settled into the left corner just beyond the diving keeper Francesc Arnau.
Barca threatened several times, but Keller made fine stops including a beauty on Luis Enrique just before the half.
Barcelona came out strong after the half, and there was little Keller could do when a pinpoint pass from Xavi Hernandez set-up Simao Sabrosa in the 54th minute. The young Portuguese star slotted the ball under the charging Keller to tie the score.
Barca then brought the play to the home side through much of the remaining time, but could not score.
Keller's big play came with two minutes to go when he stopped Luis Figo's penalty and then smothered the rebound attempt by Luis Enrique. Rayo held on for the final two minutes for the hard-earned point.
In Scotland, Glasgow Rangers needed a last gasp goal from Jorg Albertz deep in injury time to defeat Hearts 1-0. The victory moved Rangers four points ahead of Celtic, with a game in hand, as the two sides get ready for a Monday Boxing Day "Old Firm" meeting.
U.S. midfielder Claudio Reyna, did not dress for the Wednesday night match because of injury and exhaustion.
In England, American midfielder Joe-Max Moore did not see action for Everton which avoided tremendous embarrassment by defeating Third Division Exeter 1-0 in a FA Cup third-round replay.