LaLiga relegation battle: Almeria survive the drop with late penalty as Valladolid go down

LaLiga relegation battle: Almeria survive the drop with late penalty as Valladolid go down
Real Valladolid were the unluckiest of the six teams that could go down as they were unable to get the win to stave off relegation
Real Valladolid were the unluckiest of the six teams that could go down as they were unable to get the win to stave off relegation
A late penalty from Adrian Embarba earned Almeria a dramatic 3-3 draw at already down Espanyol, which saw Valladolid become the third and final team to get relegated to LaLiga2 on a thrilling final day of LaLiga action that saw six teams threatened by the drop.

Real Betis 1 Valencia  1

Real Betis legend Joaquin bid farewell to professional football in a final-day draw against Valencia as Los Che claimed the solitary point needed to stave off relegation fears.

Betis’ season was effectively over ahead of kick-off with Los Verdiblancos guaranteed to finish 6th, however, given the lightning-fast start they made, that was far from apparent.

Inside the first minute, Ayoze Perez put his side ahead after racing through on goal and slotting low past Giorgi Mamardashvili at the near post.

Needing a point to guarantee their LaLiga status for next season, Valencia immediately clapped back, but Andre Almeida’s would-be equaliser was swiftly flagged offside.

 Despite seven first-half shots for the visitors, clear-cut opportunities remained scarce, leaving Valencia in a precarious position one point above the drop at the break.

The contest continued in much the same manner after the break, with Valencia hovering above the drop based solely on scorelines elsewhere. A goal was needed to relieve the growing tension, and Los Che thought they had a golden opportunity when Javier Alberola Rojas pointed to the spot for handball, only for a prolonged VAR check to result in the decision being overturned. 

Yet moments later, Valencia finally scored that elusive goal when Nico’s reverse ball slipped in Diego Lopez, who calmly passed it into the back of the net to restore parity.

A reckless challenge from Yunus Musah saw the visitors reduced to 10 men late on, but Voro’s side were able to do just about enough to cling onto the point and ensure safety.

Relief will likely be the prevailing emotion for Valencia after narrowly avoiding the drop, losing 10 of their final 13 away league games en route to their joint-lowest-ever top-flight finish.

For Betis, a third consecutive campaign of UEFA Europa League football awaits after claiming just four wins from their last 14 LaLiga games at the Benito Villamarín Stadium - a record which must improve next season if they are to join Europe’s elite next season.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Joaquin (Real Betis)

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Elche 1 Cadiz 1

Relegated basement side Elche ensured they finished their season with some pride intact, as a 1-1 draw with Cadiz meant they ended their long-condemned LaLiga campaign with a five-game unbeaten run.

Although Cadiz began the evening sitting 13th, they were still mathematically in with a chance of being relegated, while hosts Elche were already down with just pride to play for in front of their supporters.

Curiously, the doomed Franjiverdes entered this finale as one of the league’s more in-form teams, having picked up a third of their pre-match points tally across the previous four rounds alone.

Sadly for Elche though, the familiar sinking feeling of those fatal earlier months returned near the 10-minute mark, when Fede Sam Emeterio’s shot from just outside the area was diverted home by Gonzalo Escalante, with the goal eventually awarded after a VAR check.

The Elche fans haven’t had much to cheer about this season, and they must have been wondering when their luck was going to turn tonight.

And despite their heroes’ best efforts to try and change that, VAR would again be their enemy later in the first period, with two goals scored 11 minutes apart both being ruled out for offside by elite football’s most divisive innovation.

Firstly, Tete Morente’s thunderous shot from the right side of the area was disallowed, before Randy Nteka’s well guided header into the left corner was also chalked off to Elche’s utter disbelief.

It appeared as if a goal was not going to come for the Franjiverdes, as Morente blazed a shot over the crossbar from a presentable position just after the restart.

Sebastian Beccacece’s side had scored in their previous four league outings though, and they eventually made the most of their positive attacking play with just under 20 minutes remaining, when Lucas Boye powered home a header from Gerard Gumbau’s cross to draw his team level.

The equaliser promised an intriguing conclusion to the season finale, but 1-1 was to remain the scoreline as both teams settled for what they had. Elche will hope they can bounce back at the first time of asking next season, while Cadiz can look forward to another top-flight campaign.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Lucas Boye (Elche)

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Espanyol 3 Almeria 3

Adri Embarba’s 88th minute penalty salvaged a crucial point against already relegated Espanyol to keep Almeria afloat in LaLiga on the final day of the season, despite continuing a run of just one league away win in their last 26 games after a 3-3 thriller.

While a mere draw against an already relegated Espanyol side might have been enough to guarantee safety for Almería, the nerve-wracked visitors got off to a flying start and went ahead in only the 10th minute through El Bilal Toure, who leapt highest to nod an inch-perfect header into the bottom right-hand corner. 

Their joy was only short-lived, however, as Javi Puado provided the hosts with an instant response just three minutes later, finishing superbly beyond a helpless Fernando Martínez, adding further zest to a frantic start at Cornella-El Prat.

Things only got worse for Almeria after the break, too, as the game, and potentially the visitors’ fate, was turned on its head when Ronael Pierre-Gabriel took full advantage of a loose ball inside the area, before finding the bottom right-hand corner to give Espanyol the lead in the 49th minute. 

The goal placed Rojiblancos inside the relegation zone, and given their record one win in their last 25 LaLiga games on the road, Almeria could have been forgiven for beginning to panic.

Espanyol very nearly gave Rubi’s side an insurmountable task to overcome just moments after taking the lead, only for Nico Melamed to fire wide inside the area.

 Instead, though, the task of survival drifted back on course to completion in the 58th minute, when Embarba played the role of potential hero to convert from close range to level things up at 2-2 for Almeria.

The hosts were not going down without a fight, and seemed determined to drag Almeria into the abyss with them, taking the lead once again in the 73rd minute. This time, it was substitute Luca Koleosho with the dagger to the heart of Rojiblancos, as the winger scored the goal of the game into the bottom left-hand corner from outside the area.

What was already a dramatic relegation showdown for the ages took one final twist, however, when an Almeria side that was down, out, and on course for demotion received the ultimate lifeline from the spot following a VAR call, allowing Embarba to write himself into the club’s history books, converting the final equaliser on an evening of madness to maintain his side’s LaLiga status in the 88th minute.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Adri Embarba (Almeria)

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Valladolid 0 Getafe 0

Valladolid were relegated from LaLiga following a goalless home draw with Getafe, who confirmed their own top-flight status thanks to a four-match unbeaten run to conclude the campaign. 

Starting the final matchday inside the third and final LaLiga relegation place, a win was essential for Valladolid and they started on the front foot with Kike Perez dragging a shot wide from distance.

Also embroiled in a six-team battle to avoid the drop. Getafe needed just one point to ensure survival and the visitors sat deep, frustrating Valladolid and nearly caught their hosts on the break when a direct move ended with Juan Iglesias firing wide from 20 yards.

Chances remained at a premium late in the half as Getafe continued to hold Valladolid at arm's length, yet the visitors continued to showcase their counter-attacking threat and that nearly earned them the opener just before the half-time whistle, but Jaime Mata’s header from close-range was clawed to safety by Jordi Masip.

Valladolid pushed forward with intent after the restart and came close to edging ahead when Alvaro Aguado’s powerful free-kick whistled past the post, before Cyle Larin’s diving header was inches away from nestling into the top corner.

With time running out to find a crucial winner, Valladolid became desperate and another thumping Aguado strike from outside the area flew high over the crossbar as Getafe continued to hold firm.

Ultimately, Valladolid struggled to penetrate through a stern Getafe backline, and their lack of cutting edge proved decisive as the Pucelanos finished as La Liga’s second lowest scorers - a major reason for their relegation.

In contrast, Getafe will remain in the top-flight following the stalemate having ended the season unbeaten in four matches under the guidance of Jose Bordalas.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Stefan Mitrovic (Getafe)

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