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Match round-up - First Division, Day 38

Osasuna and Valladolid will be playing their football in the second division next season after both were relegated on the last day of the season. Osasuna started the day in next to bottom spot, and although they beat the already relegated Betis 2-1, results elsewhere went against them. The Pamplona based side had to win at least, and Cejudo and Riera went close before Oriol Riera put them ahead in the twelfth minute. That however provoked a human avalanche in the crowd after a barrier gave way which delayed the match for over half an hour (luckily without any serious injuries), and the other three synchronized games taking place at the same time were halted at the break to allow them to catch up. When play resumed Acuña made it two almost immediately, turning a shot past Adán after Jordi Figueras blocked a shot from Roberto Torres. That was about it though, and Andrés had to keep out Chica, Sevilla and Reyes before Chica pulled one back with twenty minutes to go. By then though the bad news came in from the other grounds and Osasuna were down, putting an end to a run of 14 years in the top flight.

Valladolid meanwhile were at home to Granada, a team who started the game just two points ahead of them in the table. That meant that at least one of the two sides would go down, and in the end the Andalusians saved themselves with a 0-1 victory. The locals had the better chances in the first half, Javi Guerra shooting just wide, and Roberto having to prevent Nyom from putting through his own net, then saving well from Jeffren. Jaime had to be on his toes though to keep out a Mainz header, and with the first half coming to a close the visitors scored, Mitrovic deflecting Piti’s cross in to his own net following a Fran Rico free kick, Oscar’s attempted clearance coming after the ball had crossed the line. Juan Ignacio Martínez’s side tried desperately to get back in the match, but in the end only a couple of good saves by Jaime prevented Brahimi and Ighalo from increasing the lead. Granada were saved, and Valladolid will be relegated to the second division for the third time in ten years.

Getafe and Almería came in to the last weekend three points above the drop zone, and both got the results they needed to stay up. Getafe were away to local rivals Rayo Vallecano, but it was anything but a friendly encounter as Cosmin Contra’s side ran out 1-2 winners in the end. The visitors needed a point to be sure of staying up, and Lafita and Pedro León both went close before Ciprian put the visitors ahead with a low shot past Rubén shortly before the break. However Trashorras equalized with a long free kick which bounced past keeper Julio César, and (with a negative head-to-head record against Osasuna) there were some nervous moments for the visiting fans after that, Julio César having to save from Seba Fernández and Galeano, and Alberto Bueno having a strike ruled out for a borderline offside. With the game in injury time though Rubén gave away a penalty on Sammir, and Ciprian stepped up to slot home the resulting spot kick. A bit of fun and games at the end as managers and players clashed leaving the pitch, but Getafe had managed to save themselves for another year.

Almería looked doomed only a month ago, but a run of three victories in a row had taken them clear of the drop zone, and (with a better head-to-head record against most of their rivals), only a strange combination of results would have seen them down. As it was though they were never really in danger, and they played out a relatively relaxed 0-0 draw against an Athletic Bilbao side who had already done their homework a couple of weeks ago to tie up fourth place in the league. There were some nerves early on however as Guillermo, Mikel Rico and Laporte all went close for the visitors, and Torsiglieri was lucky not to be penalized when he handled the ball in the area after the interval. Rodri could have wrapped things up later on, Herrerín saving his first shot, and his second bouncing just wide of the post, but there was still a late scare when Guillermo got free, only for Esteban to close him down quickly.

Almería’s survival means that the three teams who were promoted last season will be staying up, Elche saving themselves a few days ago, and Villarreal finishing in sixth place after they beat Real Sociedad 1-2 in this Sunday’s mid-day kick-off. Marcelino’s side started the game three points behind their rivals in the table, but knowing that a victory by any scoreline would take them above the Basque side on the head-to-head record. And in the first half it was virtually one-way traffic, Bravo saving from Giovani and Uche shooting wide before Giovani picked up Uche’s back-heel pass on the half way line to run through and curl a shot past the keeper. Real finally woke up near the end of the first half, Bergara poking a shot just wide, and after the restart Griezmann put Juan Carlos to the test for the first time with a header. However with twenty minutes to go Uche made it two after Giovani put him through, and although Vela combined with Zurutuza to get one back, the goal came too late to change the scoreline. The result was important, as Villarreal now enter the Europa League at the last qualifying stage, whereas their hosts will have to start their campaign in the earlier rounds at the beginning of August.

Not that that is all too bad, as Sevilla did just that last season and still went on to win the competition! Villarreal’s victory meant that the Andalusians went in to the very last game of the season against Elche already sure of fifth spot, and there was a festival atmosphere as they ran out 3-1 winners in the end, the visitors applauding their hosts on to the pitch in traditional style as they presented their newly won trophy to their fans. Iborra opened the scoring for the locals with a quarter of an hour gone after Fazio headed on a Reyes corner, turning a shot past Manu Herrera from close up after Coke laid the ball back across goal. Javi Varas had to save from Flores and Márquez either side of half time, but Jairo fired home the second on the hour mark after picking up a pass from Diogo Figueiras. Iborra made it three a few minutes later after Reyes lifted the ball over the defence, and with the game in injury time Boakye had the honour of scoring what was the last goal of a very exciting season. (18.05.14)

Atlético Madrid are league champions after holding second placed Barcelona to a 1-1 draw in the Nou Camp on Saturday! After failing to beat Málaga last weekend, Simeone’s side needed at least a point in their last match, the first time that the top two had met in an end of season decider in over 60 years. The visitors lost Diego Costa and Arda Turan to injuries early on, and with ten minutes to go to the break Alexis smashed a shot past Courtois after Messi chested back a centre from Fabregás to open the scoring. David Villa hit the post at the start or the second half though, and a couple of minutes later Godín got on the end of Gabi’s corner to head the equalizer. Messi thought he had scored the winner later on only for the strike to be ruled out by the referee for offside, and Courtois had to be at his best to push a long shot from Dani Alves over the bar a few minutes later. But after that Atleti held on to take their tenth league title and their first in 18 years, ending a nine year duopoly between Barcelona and Real Madrid. They can’t celebrate too much right now though, with the Champions League final against city rivals only a week away. Barcelona though end the season with only the Spanish Supercup to their name, and coach Tata Martino announced in the post-match press conference that he is moving on. Celta boss Luis Enrique is expected to be his replacement. .

Barça’s draw at least gave them second place, ahead of Real Madrid on goal difference even though Ancelotti’s side beat Espanyol 3-1 earlier in the evening. Cristiano Ronaldo was looking for the goal he needed to get ahead of Liverpool’s Luis Suárez in the race for the European Golden Boot, but he had to pull out after aggravating an injury in the pre-match warm up. Madrid had taken themselves out of the running for the league title after only picking up two points from their last three games, but they dominated the first half, Benzema heading a good chance over the top and Kiko Casilla having to save from Ramos and Benzema. Midway through the second half Bale got the opener, picking up Benzema’s pass and beating the keeper with an angled shot in off the post, but Simao and Pizzi both went close soon afterwards, and Ancelotti suffered another blow when Benzema limped off with an injury which could take him out of the Champions League final. His replacement Morata took his opportunity though to add a second after Ramos and Di María combined to set him up, and although Pizzi got on the end of a Sergio García cross to steer a shot past Iker Casillas, Morata wrapped things up after latching on to Di María’s square pass following a quick breakaway. A last game for Javier Aguirre before moving on, and his side will be glad the season is over after only picking up two points from their last eight matches. Madrid still have one game to go though, and they will be hoping that Ronaldo, Benzema, Pepe and company will recover in time for next Saturday’s little trip to Lisbon.

Elsewhere Valencia came back from a goal down to beat Celta 2-1, the win taking them above Luis Enrique’s side (and more importantly, city rivals Levante) to eighth place. The Galicians took the lead following a Nolito set-piece free kick in the fifth minute, Iñigo López getting on the end of Jonny Castro’s cross to turn a shot past Diego Alves. Alex López felt he should have had a penalty a few minutes later, but otherwise the locals were in charge from then on, Vargas shooting wide and Sergio Alvarez making top class saves from Jonas and Michel before Feghouli equalized with a diving header after Piatti headed over a Dani Parejo centre. Soon after the restart Vargas went close again, and ten minutes in to the second half Piatti put Pizzi’s team in front, his header from Feghouli’s cross hitting Jonny on the back and deflecting in to the net. As the game wore on though both sides called it a day, the long, hard campaign over for another year. Nothing to show for it except for another season in the top flight, although Valencia in particular will be optimistic after the announcement today that Singapore businessman Peter Lim has purchased the club. They will be hoping for better things in the future. (17.05.14)

Málaga ended their season with a 1-0 victory over Levante on Friday night, the result taking the Andalusians up to eleventh, just a place behind their opponents in the table. With nothing at stake, both coaches gave a run out to some of their lesser used players, although the locals had the better chances in the first half, Rescaldani and Amrabat both bringing good saves out of Keylor Navas. With an hour on the clock Portillo got what was to prove the only goal of the game, firing an angled shot through a sea of legs after Navas had pushed out a shot by Amrabat. Málaga coach Bernd Schuster managed to get himself sent off for arguing in his last match in charge, and Diop was also red-carded after picking up a second booking with ten minutes to go. Soon afterwards the Andalusians were awarded a penalty when Nagore tripped Juanmi in the area, the players gifting the ball to Casado who was returning from a long injury. Unfortunately for him he blasted the spot-kick over the bar, but that didn’t affect the result, and both teams were able to start their holidays a day earlier than the rest. (16.05.14)