Second division - day 41
Racing Santander and Recreativo Huelva both won promotion to the first division with victories in the next to last day of the season. Racing beat already promoted Atlético Madrid 1-0 in front of their first capacity crowd in nine years to make it back up after only one season in the second division. It was hard work though, and although Luis Aragonés gave a run out to some of his reserves, Atlético went closest to scoring when Roberto hit the post in the first half and Lemmens saved well from Dani after the break. As news was coming through though that fourth placed Xerez were losing, Racing took the lead when young midfielder José Moratón beat keeper Toni after Juanma headed on Sierra's corner. The Sardinero stadium exploded in delight, and excited fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle leaving some of their players down to their underwear.
Spain's oldest club Recreativo Huelva returned to the top flight for only the second time in their history with a bad tempered 2-1 win over neighbours and promotion rivals Xerez. A victory for the visitors would have taken them ahead of their hosts on goal difference, and Bernd Schuster's side started well, taking the lead through Calle with only eight minutes on the clock. For a while Recre were groggy, and Calle missed a couple of opportunities to extend the lead. However three minutes before the break Soriano finally bundled the ball in the net at the third attempt for the equaliser, and with twenty minutes to go the referee awarded a penalty to the home side when Ramón brought down Antoñito. The action meant a red card for the keeper, and Soriano stepped up to beat his number two Almaro from the spot. Having only avoided relegation two years ago thanks to the bankruptcy of Mérida, Lucas Alcaraz takes the South coast side back to the top for the first time since 1978/79, their only previous season in the first division.
Two of the four relegation spots were decided this weekend, with Real Jaén and Extremadura both on their way down. Jaén lost 0-1 to an Elche side who started the day with a remote chance of promotion. The home side should have taken the lead early in the second half when they were awarded a penalty after Noguerol handled in the area. However Valerio saved Pepelu's spot kick, and repeated the act when the referee ordered the penalty to be retaken. Three minutes later Raúl Ivars scored at the other end, giving Manolo Jiménez's side their fifth defeat in six games and leaving them at the bottom of the table. Elche move up to fourth, but have no chance now of promotion after Recre's win.
Confrontation between Extremadura's new president Juanito and his predecessor Pedro Nieto after their side could only draw 1-1 with Poli Ejido. Each accused the other of being responsible for the club's relegation which takes them back down to to the second division B after eight years, during which time they have had two seasons in the first division. The only addition though of Juanito's winter signings Kiko and Pier has been to their payroll, and Kiko was once again injured and unable to play what would have been his last game before retiring. The Almendralejo based side did take the lead though through an early indirect Moya free kick which took a deflection off a defender, but Bordi equalised in the second half to take Ejido back out of the bottom four onto 47 points, above Levante on goal difference.
The remaining two relegation spots will be decided between five teams on the last day of the season next weekend. Levante dropped back into trouble after losing at home 0-1 to Badajoz, who themselves ensured their continuity in the second division A with the victory. The Valencia based side should have wrapped things up, with Roa hitting the bar before the break and Baines saving well from Lima and Kaiku in the second half. However the visitors sneaked a win in the third minute of injury time through Roberto, and held on despite having Rodri sent off a minute later.
Gimnastic Tarragona are only a point behind Levante and Ejido after an impressive 0-2 win at Oviedo. The Asturian side were lacking motivation after throwing away any chances of promotion the week before, and they allowed themselves to be dominated by their desperate opponents. Cuéllar gave Nàstic the lead in the twentieth minute with a shot through keeper Esteban's legs, and Marín added the second from the penalty spot in the last minute after he himself was brought down by Oscar Alvarez.
Murcia moved closer to safety with a 0-1 win at Burgos, and a victory at home to Jaén next week will ensure they stay up. David Vidal's side are now on 49 points, two above Ejido, thanks to a second half goal by Juanma. The game was soporific, and the frustrated local crowd chanted for the head of manager Quique Martín, having only seen their side win four times at the Plantio stadium all season and even worse only score once in the last eight home matches. They are however safe for another year.
Leganés still have a mathematical possibility of relegation after losing 0-1 to Numancia, who themselves needed the points to move away from the battle to avoid the drop. Over half of the 5,000 crowd came from Soria to support their team, and they were rewarded when Iñaki put them in front, following up after Aranda had hit the post. The visitors move a place above the Madrid based side, who with 50 points should in any case have done enough to stay up despite losing their last three matches.
The other three games in the second division were fairly academic, with nothing to play for other than pride and win bonuses. Sporting Gijon moved above their neighbours Oviedo into sixth spot after winning 1-2 away at Salamanca. The visitors dominated the first half with Villa scoring twice in the first half hour, the first a header from Borreguero's corner in the third minute and the second from the penalty spot after the under 21 international was brought down. Robert pulled one back for the home side soon after the break.
Eibar ended the weekend in eighth place after a 2-1 win over Córdoba, giving a successful send off to their outgoing president José Luis Mardaras. Guerrero gave them the lead in the first half with a shot from outside of the area, and their keeper Almunia kept them in front with some good saves after the break before substitutes Montenegro and Eloy combined for the latter to head home the former's free kick for the equaliser. However Eleder got on the end of Barkero's corner to score the winner at the end. (19.05.02)
Racing Ferrol gave their fans some cheer to end this year's campaign at the A Malata stadium with a 2-0 win over Albacete. With nothing to play for it was an open game, and Diawara gave the Gallicians the lead in the twentieth minute after Cano pushed out Boughanem's shot. Either side could have scored before Alberto Méndez finished things off in the second half after Cano had saved from the active Ismael. (18.05.02)