|First Division - Day 37|
Villarreal 2 - Zaragoza 1
López Vallejo; Xavi Roca, Quique Alvarez, Ballesteros, Arruabarrena;
Amor, Galca; Jorge López (Unai 62'), Víctor (Guayre 93'), Calleja
(Xavi Gracia 88'); Palermo. 4-2-3-1.
Team changes: Villarreal: Palermo for Unai / Zaragoza: Pablo, Aragón, Corona, Vellisca for Esquerdinha, Marcos Vales, Juanele, Garitano.
Ugly scenes at Villarreal, where Zaragoza lost and were relegated after twenty-four consecutive years in the first division. With both teams needing a victory to avoid the drop nerves were at breaking point, and an almighty brawl broke out between players and fans after referee Pérez Lasa blew the final whistle. After ten games without a win, visiting manager Marcos Alonso made four changes to his side and went for broke, playing with three at the back and pushing his lines forward to pressure his opponents. However the tactic didn't pay off, and within ten minutes the locals had taken the lead when Palermo finished off after a charge down the right wing by Xavi Roca. Palermo had only just returned to the starting line up for the first time in six months after breaking his leg earlier in the season, and his contributions as substitute in the last couple of games or so has proved vital in Villarreal's fight for survival.
The goal was a punch in the guts for the visitors, and any fighting spirit they had left disappeared after that. Only a couple of vital saves by Lainez from Jorge López and Amor prevented them from a massacre, although he could do nothing to stop Arruabarrena's header entering the net from Galca's corner midway through the first half. Many of the visiting fans started to leave the ground soon afterwards, not wanting to watch any more suffering. With nothing to lose Alonso brought on Drulic early in the second half to join Milosevic up front, and they finally got some joy when Pérez Lasa ruled rather harshly that Corona had been brought down by Quique Alvarez on the edge of the area. Milosevic stepped up to drive the spot kick into the net, and he went close to levelling the scores with a header soon afterwards which López Vallejo did well to hang on to. The last twenty minutes seemed an age for the watching fans, but there were no more scoring incidents and Villarreal held on to ensure first division football at the Madrigal stadium for next season.
When the final whistle went there was a general pitch invasion, with celebrating local fans mixing with angry visiting supports. One fan hit Lainez in the back and the keeper responded by punching out, and Toro Acuña was caught on camera chasing after the offender, tripping him and then kicking him on the ground. The Zaragoza substitutes joined in, and Palermo squared up to Acuña as fists flew all round. Milosevic insulted the referee in the tunnel, and then punched a press photographer, returning later on to apologise to the reporter for his actions. Disgraceful scenes which could be repeated next week when Zaragoza play their last home game next week against Barcelona, and the disciplinary committee is expected to throw the book at the players involved. A sad ending to the season for one of the league's biggest clubs.