SOCCER-SPAIN

Second Division - Day 41

With all the important matches kicking off at the same time on Sunday, only the game between Numancia and Villarreal B was brought forward to Saturday evening. Neither team had anything to play for, and the two managers used the occasion to try out reserve and junior players. Local coach Arconada (who confirmed he will be taking over at Tenerife next season) also drafted in Palacios and Nagore, who both will be leaving the playing staff this summer. The game itself was very relaxed, with chances few and far between until Mikel Alvaro finally beat Juan Carlos with four minutes to go to take his side to within two points of their opponents in the table. Both will be playing in the second division again next year. (12.06.10)


Real Sociedad and Levante are promoted to the first division after winning their respective games today. Real Sociedad beat Celta 2-0 to ensure the second division title, and to return to the top flight after three seasons in the second division. Michu gave the capacity crowd an early fright when he hit the bar, but Xabi Prieto converted a penalty after Griezmann was fouled at the start of the second half to put the Basque side ahead. Prieto injured himself falling over a hoarding in the celebrations, but a few minutes later Carlos Bueno headed the second after Nsue and Griezmann combined to set him up, and the celebrations began.

With their financial problems, Levante were never one of the favourites for promotion. But recent good form had taken them in to the running, and a 3-1 victory against already relegated Castellón made sure they will finish in the top three whatever the results next weekend. Goals from Juanlu and Xisco Muñoz in the first ten minutes set them on track, and Javi Guerra wrapped things up after good work by Iborra just before half time. Tabares scored a late consolation for the visitors following a last minute corner, but with news coming in that Betis had only been able to draw, the fans invaded the pitch at the final whistle.

Hércules will join them both in the top flight if they can beat Real Unión in their last match, a late 2-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano taking them above Betis on goal difference. Rayo themselves are still not safe, and Coke gave them the lead with an angled shot on the stroke of half time. However Portillo headed in a Sendoa cross to equalise just three minutes after the restart, and the ex Real Madrid and Osasuna striker fired home the winner for the Alicante based side with two minutes to go. Coke got himself sent off for insulting the referee after that, and he will miss Rayo's final match against Recreativo.

Betis themselves drop out of the top three after they could only draw 1-1 at Salamanca, and they now need to win against Levante and hope that Hércules drop points if they are to return to the first division. Almost half of the 15,000 crowd in the Helmantico stadium were supporting the visitors, and there was an electric atmosphere as both sides had early chances. Ten minutes in to the second half the locals went in front when Kike's effort was turned in to his own net by Fernando Vega, but substitute Odonkor levelled the scores soon after coming on. Salamanca stay a point above the drop zone, and a win at Villarreal B next weekend will see them stay up.

Cartagena's slim hopes of promotion are now over after they lost 1-0 at Recreativo. Last week's draw against Hércules meant they depended on other results to have any chance of going up, but they came out with confidence right from the start. Balboa and De Lucas wasted chances to take the lead though, and just a minute after the break a mistake by Etxeita let in Braulio to score what was to be the only goal of the game. A great first season for Cartagena though, and they will hope to consolidate their position next year.

Nothing was decided further down the table though, and the last three relegation spots are still open coming in to the last weekend, with no less than nine sides with a chance of going down. Real Unión are worst placed to save themselves though after a crushing 4-0 defeat at Córdoba left them three points adrift, and they now need to beat Hércules and hope for an unlikely series of results to stay up. The Andalusians themselves still needed a point or two coming in to this game, and Pepe Díaz put them ahead from a Fuentes pass midway through the first half. Asen got the second a minute after the restart, and Pepe Díaz and José Vega rounded things off later on.

There were two games involving sides fighting to avoid relegation, with Cádiz and Las Palmas dropping in to the bottom four after losing their respective matches. Cádiz were beaten 2-1 by Huesca, and after climbing out of the bottom four in recent weeks they now find themselves back in trouble. Enrique gave the Andalusians hope with an early goal, but Luis Helguera volleyed home the equaliser later in the first half. Helguera was sent off ten minutes in to the second half for a heavy tackle on an opponent, but Camacho scored a second for the locals a few minutes later, and they held on despite ending with nine men after Gilvan was also shown a red card after picking up two bookings in quick succession for time wasting.

Huesca move two points above their rivals, level with four teams including Salamanca, Albacete and Murcia, who beat Las Palmas 1-0 to climb a point above the Canary Islanders in the table. The only goal of the game came in controversial circumstances midway through the first half, Chando appearing to control the ball with his hand before beating Pindado. It was a third win in a row for Murcia, and a victory against Girona next weekend will ensure another season in the second division.

Las Palmas themselves will be hosts next weekend to Gimnàstic, who made mathematically sure of staying up after a 3-1 win over Elche. Veteran striker José Marí headed the opener in only the eighth minute, and Campano got the second in the middle of the second half. Samuel pulled one back for the visitors with a quarter of an hour to go, but just a minute later Roberto scored his side's third to end a run of six games without a victory.

Nàstic move level with Girona, three points above the drop zone, but even if they lose at Las Palmas and the teams below them all win, they have a better head-to-head record against their Catalan neighbours. As it happens the only direct clash between sides involved in the relegation battle is the one between Girona and Murcia, and Narcis Julià's side still need a point in that game to be absolutely sure of avoiding relegation after a 3-0 defeat at Albacete. Antonio Hidalgo scored twice for the Manchegans in the first half, and Fernando Sales added a third near the end to take them a point above the bottom four. Their last match is at Cartagena. (13.06.10)

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