Wild end to Spain’s 2nd division ‘virus’ match 3 weeks later
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The match that caused chaos in Spain’s second division after being suspended because of a coronavirus outbreak on one team was decided by a stoppage-time penalty on Friday.
The spot kick scored five minutes into injury time by Claudio Beauvue gave Deportivo La Coruña a 2-1 comeback win over Fuenlabrada. The outcome meant nothing to the relegated Deportivo, but it did quash Fuenlabrada’s bid to make the promotion playoffs while ensuring Elche clinched a spot in the fight for the top-flight.
The match was finally played almost three weeks after it was suspended when some Fuenlabrada players tested positive for COVID-19 hours before they were due to play at Deportivo.
The outbreak spread among Fuenlabrada’s players who had traveled from their home in Madrid to northwest A Coruña for the July 20 match and were stuck in confinement in a hotel for two weeks. One player needed to be hospitalized for several days.
The league at one point decided to just cancel the match, but a court overruled that decision and said it must be played, giving new hope to Fuenlabrada to make the playoffs.
The postponed match blemished la Liga’s plan to resume the season that was delayed for four months due to the pandemic. While the first division went off without a hitch with players being regularly tested and keeping their social contacts to a minimum as dictated by league guidelines, the suspended match between Fuenlabrada and Deportivo led to complaints by second-division clubs that argued their interests were damaged.
Elche complained that it could be the biggest loser of all since it finished just head of Fuenlabrada in sixth place, the last spot of four that earn a playoff berth. Zaragoza, which had already secured a playoff spot, complained this week of the uncertainty caused by the situation that had dragged on and delayed the playoffs.
There were even suspicions about the integrity of the match.
Fuenlabrada needed one point from a draw to displace Elche. Deportivo had only pride to play for after already being relegated to the third tier by other results in the final round.
The doubts that Deportivo would play its hardest for a win were stoked when captain Álex Bergantiños was questioned by police regarding comments he made in an audio released by Spanish media that seemed to indicate his side wouldn’t play to win.
Those fears, however, proved baseless.
Deportivo went behind early to a 10th-minute goal, but the hosts dominated the second half and had several chances before scoring twice late.
The equalizer came in the 84th when the Fuenlabrada goalkeeper conceded an own goal, and a penalty kick was converted after a handball.
On the final whistle, Elche tweeted, “Shout so everyone knows... ELCHE IS IN THE PLAYOFFS.”
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