BC-SOC--Spanish Roundup,1st Ld-Writethru
MADRID (AP) — Valencia secured its return to the Champions League by beating Valladolid 2-0 in the final round of the Spanish league on Saturday.
Carlos Soler and Rodrigo scored in each half to guarantee Valencia the fourth and final spot for the European competition next season.
Espanyol ended with the final Europa League spot after jumping from ninth to seventh in the standings after beating Real Sociedad 2-0. Espanyol fans stormed the field at RCDE Stadium to celebrate the club’s return to Europe after more than a decade. The team’s second goal was by Chinese forward Wu Lei.
Girona became the third team to be relegated, joining Rayo Vallecano and Huesca in the second division.
Valencia grabbed fourth place for the first time last weekend after recovering from a dismal start to the season. It won one of its first 11 league matches before gradually recovering to finish with the coveted Champions League berth for a second straight year. It was eliminated in the group stage this season.
Valencia finishes the season next weekend in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona.
“We didn’t start well but we were able to recover thanks to a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice,” Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo said. “We achieved our goal today and now we will try to reach another one in next weekend’s final.”
Both Valencia goals came after mistakes by Valladolid defenders, with Soler opening the scoring in the 36th minute and Rodrigo sealing the victory in the 52nd.
Valladolid, owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, had pride to play for in the final round having already secured a place in the first division last weekend. It was promoted to the top flight this season for the first time since 2014.
Modest Getafe was one of the league sensations and had been holding on to fourth place for nearly the entire second half of the season. It needed to beat Villarreal to have a chance of overcoming Valencia but it only drew 2-2 in its home finale.
Sixth-placed Sevilla was the only other team with a chance of finishing with the final Champions League spot but beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at home wasn’t enough.
The loss in Seville cost Athletic Bilbao the final Europa League spot, which ended with Espanyol. Espanyol, which hadn’t been higher than ninth in the standings for the entire second half of the season, ended tied on points with Athletic but had the better head-to-head tiebreaker.
Espanyol’s last appearance in a European competition was in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup.
Sociedad would have grabbed the final Europa League spot with a win at Espanyol.
Girona lost at Alaves 2-1 to end its chances of staying in the top flight. It needed to make up a three-point difference and a six-goal disadvantage in the tiebreaker against Celta Vigo, which survived despite a 2-2 home draw against already relegated Rayo Vallecano. Girona was in its second season in the first division. Huesca also had already been relegated.
Atletico Madrid, which had already secured its second straight runner-up finish, ended its season drawing at Levante 2-2 in what was the last match with the club for Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, and Juanfran Torres.
On Sunday, champion Barcelona visits Eibar and third-placed Real Madrid hosts Real Betis.
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