There was plenty of last day drama in Spain, as wins for Real Zaragoza and Rayo Vallecano ensured the shock relegation of Villarreal, whilst Levante sealed a European place.
VILLARREAL 0-1 ATLETICO MADRID
While it always seemed possible, nobody was really predicting Villarreal to go down. It has been a disaster of a season, but with two clubs separating them from the relegation zone, and Granada in action against one of them, all Villarreal really needed to do was get a point against an Atletico team with little to play for apart from an outside shot of Champions League football, having already bagged the Europa League trophy in midweek.
But the improbable happened within two minutes in two of the games. First, Radamel Falcao popped up in the 89th minute to score his 24th goal of the season and condemn Villarreal to a costly defeat, whilst in Madrid…
RAYO VALLECANO 1-0 GRANADA
…Rayo Vallecano, into injury time of a game which as results were going against them, would see them relegated with merely a draw. But Raul Tamudo, already a hero at Espanyol, appeared (in a seemingly offside position) to head home from close range and send the home fans into raptures, as his goal ensured Rayo Vallecano will remain a Primera Liga club next season.
Granada had a bit of a wait as they sat nervously, but as news of Villarreal’s defeat filtered through, they enjoyed a massive on pitch party with their fellow survivors. Beautiful scenes in a way.
GETAFE 0-2 REAL ZARAGOZA
This drama was all made possible as Getafe imploded in a match Zaragoza needed to win to complete their dramatic revival. Having been 12 points adrift at the beginning of March, Manolo Jimenez has done a magical job of turning their fortunes around, with this victory over eight-man Getafe getting them out of the drop zone for the first time since about September.
Pablo Sarabia kicked things off by picking up two bookings in two minutes as Getafe’s discipline went out of the window with only 25 minutes gone, before Miguel Torres saw red ten minutes into the second half, as he gave away a penalty.
Apono converted the penalty to give Zaragoza the lead, before the referee got busy again in the final ten minutes, as Zaragoza’s Tomislav Dujmovic and Getafe’s Miku were both sent off in separate incidents. Helder Postiga then clinched victory and survival in stoppage time to complete a memorable, if not overly celebrated by the neutrals, comeback.
MALAGA 1-0 SPORTING GIJON
The other side aiming for unlikely survival were Sporting Gijon, but they were not to be so lucky as they fell to Malaga, who in turn clinched their place in next season’s Champions League tournament and secured their highest ever finish in La Primera.
Salomon Rondon, the repeatedly unsung hero of this Malaga side, scored the only goal of the game to keep Malaga fourth, whilst Sporting were, as expected, condemned to playing next season in La Segunda.
LEVANTE 3-0 ATHLETIC BILBAO
Demoralisation from their Europa League defeat, or one eye on the Copa Del Rey final? You decide the excuse, but Athletic Bilbao failed to show up against Levante, allowing Los Granotes to secure their place in next season’s Europa League, thus making them the second team in the Valencia region following Villarreal’s demise.
Abdelkhader Ghezzal scored twice for the season’s surprise package, with a Javier Farinos penalty sealing a comfortable victory that sends Levante into their first (and probably only) European tour.
Athletic will go into next season’s competition anyway as qualifiers from the Copa Del Rey, with Barca already in the Champions League.
REAL MADRID 4-1 MALLORCA
Levante were able to clinch that position, as Mallorca lost at Real Madrid, which was hardly to be unexpected despite Real having already clinched the title a while back.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema scored first half goals, with Mesut Özil adding a second-half brace, either side of a Chori Castro consolation goal, to take Real to the 100 point mark for the season and spark hours of over-the-top on-pitch celebrations, including Placido Domingo singing ‘Hala Madrid’.
Impressive spectacle it may have been, but appeared to only exist in order to rub it in the noses of Barcelona.
RACING SANTANDER 2-4 OSASUNA
Osasuna did all they could to keep pace with the European challengers, but miss out despite a big seventh placed finish. Racing tried to go out with a bit of a bang, but the flaws in their performance were symptomatic of their season, with relegation having been assured long ago.
Christian Stuani tried to put a bright spark on the end of this horrible season with his second minute opener, but a 15-minute second half salvo from Ibrahima Balde, Alvaro Cejudo and Raul Garcia swung the game in the visitors favour. Jairo Samperio pulled one back for Racing, but Osasuna made sure when Roversio scored in the final minute.
Despite Atletico’s Europa League victory automatically giving them qualification to next season’s competition, an extra space in the league will not materialise, meaning Osasuna will miss out.
ESPANYOL 1-1 SEVILLA
With other results going against them, this effectively became a dead rubber match as neither side would have made Europe even with victory. That it ended in a draw sums up both sides seasons, as they were always on the cusp, but threw away any potential chance they may have had.
Alvaro Negredo opened the scoring for Sevilla in first half stoppage time, before Phillippe Coutinho equalised, as both teams will go into the summer knowing they will need to be stronger next season.
REAL BETIS 2-2 BARCELONA
These next two matches took place on the Saturday, as they would have no bearing on the league table in any important way, and Pep Guardiola ended his reign as Barca manager with a rather fortunate draw.
Sergio Busquets gave Barca a ninth minute lead, but the second half proved a disaster, as Dani Alves saw red for two bookable offences, before a six minute double salvo from Ruben Castro reversed the scoreline. Barca were determined to ensure Guardiola didn’t leave with a whimper though and got their equaliser in stoppage time, as Seydou Keita netted to give La Blaugrana a share of the spoils.
REAL SOCIEDAD 1-0 VALENCIA
One manager who did go out with a whimper was Unai Emery, as he leaves his position as Valencia manager despite leading them to consecutive third place finishes, despite having his best players sold from underneath him.
His last game ended in a defeat that has typified Valencia’s season in the eyes of many a Valencia fan, with plenty of the ball being seen, but so little created with it. Antoine Griezmann proved the thorn in Valencia’s side for the second time this season as he struck 20 minutes into the second half, with Sociedad finishing a mere two points behind their more celebrated rivals, Athletic Bilbao.
It’s been another enthralling season in La Liga, despite the nay-sayers pointing merely to the two-horse title race. Looking forward to next season for another set of twists, turns and exciting football as Barca try to reclaim their title, Malaga look to build further on their big season and Villarreal look to fight back into a league they have well and truly belonged in.
Follow Sam and his La Liga musings on Twitter: @SmParker8Tags: La Liga, Levante, Malaga, Pep Guardiola, Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid, Villarreal