First division - day 38
The final day of the Spanish league, and many issues were only settled today after one of the closest fought leagues in the history of the game. Barcelona took the last Champions League spot after coming from behind to draw 1-1 at Zaragoza. The visitors took the lead through Aragón early on, but Saviola made it all square after Luis Enrique played on Xavi's long ball. Many of the home fans left the ground with only ten minutes on the clock as a protest against their side's relegation. There were none of the embarrassing scenes of the week before though. Barça fans were also protesting after hearing the news that Louis Van Gaal will probably be retuning next season.
As it happened Barcelona would have qualified even if they had lost as their only rival Celta were beaten 1-0 at Rayo Vallecano. The only goal came late in the game from Peragón after Helder's shot came back off the post to give Rayo their fifth win in a row and take them up to eleventh spot. Celta were disappointing, although Mostovoi did hit the bar before Peragón's goal.
As expected, Alavés won their Basque derby at Osauna 0-1, and they hold on to the third UEFA spot. There were many rumours before the game that the Pamplona based side were going to let their Basque neighbours win now that they had avoided relegation, although manager Lotina strongly denied this and told press he was due to earn a 30,000 Euros bonus for a victory. Karmona made him a poorer man by heading home Ibon Begoña's corner late in the first half.
Alavés join Celta and Betis as the three Spanish teams in next year's UEFA cup. The Andalucians were already qualified, but lost 2-0 to league champions Valencia on a night of celebration in the Mestalla stadium. Baraja gave Rafa Benítez's side the lead on the stroke of half time, his sixth goal in eight games, and Vicente added a second at the end. Reserve keeper Palop saved a penalty from Gastón Casas near the end, and French international Anglomá took his last bow before retiring. RFEF president Angel Villar presented the league trophy to club captain Santiago Cañizares after the match. Cañizares also won the goalkeeper's Zamora prize for the second year running.
The victory by Alavés meant that Sevilla's 1-0 win over Villarreal was academic, despite strong protests by club president Roberto Ales that Osasuna were not really trying. They finished in eight place, heading a group of three teams just a point behind the Vitoria based side. Once again it was Toedtli who got the goal, this time from the penalty spot on the half hour mark after he was fouled by Njegus.
Málaga also lose out on the UEFA cup despite a1-2 victory over Espanyol. They do have the consolation of the Intertoto cup though, and they will take the first spot which means they will start the competition at the end of July. Although Espanyol are the second ranked of the three Spanish sides who pre-registered for the competition (Villarreal were the third), they miss out as they ended out of the top twelve positions, a prerequisite for qualifying. Litos and Musampa gave the visitors the lead before the break, and Tamudo missed a first half penalty but pulled a goal back after the restart.
Mallorca saved themselves from relegation after coming from behind to beat Valladolid 2-1, and that leaves Las Palmas and Tenerife down in the second division. Things looked grim when Fernando put the visitors ahead ten minutes before the interval, especially as both Canary Island sides were both in front by then. However Ibagaza levelled the scores six minutes in to the second half, and Luque scored one of the most important goals of his young career a few minutes later to revalidate the change of manager two weeks ago.
Las Palmas were saved for around an hour after they went ahead midway through the first half with a Jorge penalty at Real Sociedad. However after news came through that Mallorca were winning they lost the plot and ended up drawing 1-1. Kovacevic levelled the scores with a diving header a quarter of an hour from the end, and Edu Alonso got himself sent off for the visitors after picking up a second booking in the dying minutes. Samways and his teammates left the field in tears, and with the club in financial difficulties their future is not very rosy.
Tenerife's game against Athletic Bilbao was suspended for over an hour at the break after floodlights failed, and when they started again Clemente's side were already down and Bilbao's chance of qualifying for the UEFA cup were over. Urzaiz had put the visitors in front early on but Jaime and a Bichi Fuertes penalty gave the Islanders hope. However after the restart they lost their motivation, and Bilbao ended up winning 2-3 with second half goals from Urzaiz again and Julen Guerrero. (11.05.02)
Real Madrid will have to win next Wednesday's Champions League final if they are to qualify directly for the league stage of next season's competition. A 3-0 defeat at the hands of Deportivo La Coruña in their last game of the season means that Del Bosque's side drops below their opponents to third, and they will have to play a tricky qualifying round unless they end this year's tournament as champions. With one eye on that match the manager made six changes, leaving out Raúl, Figo and Hierro and playing youngsters Pavón and Rubén in the heart of defence. The move didn't work out though, and Deportivo wasted half a dozen chances before Makaay finally beat César with a long shot on the stroke of half time. Fran added a second after the break, and substitute Pandiani finished things off with an injury time goal to take his side into the runners up spot for the second year in a row. (10.05.02)