Hasta luego Depor
In our latest post on Spanish soccer, Mark Elkington in Madrid looks at the dramatic final day of La Liga action, which saw once-mighty Deportivo Coruna relegated. Rayo Vallecano were promoted, meaning there will be four clubs from the capital in the top flight next season for the first time.
Hasta luego Depor
Roberto Soldado scored his 18th La Liga goal of the campaign on Saturday, his best tally for a season, but there were no celebrations as he trudged back to the centre circle with his head down, in Deportivo Coruna’s silent Riazor stadium.
The Valencia striker had just sealed Depor’s relegation to the second division in the 96th minute, a breakaway goal making it 2-0 on the night and ending Depor’s hopes of a dramatic late equaliser which would have saved them.
Depor started the day in 17th place, one point above the last relegation slot held by Real Zaragoza. They were one of six teams separated by two points who could have gone down along with Real Mallorca, Osasuna, Getafe and Real Sociedad.
The five games affecting those teams all kicked off at 10pm and within only four minutes Depor were in trouble when Valencia’s Aritz Aduriz scuffed home a shot.
Osasuna took an early lead and beat Villarreal 1-0, Getafe drew 1-1 with Sociedad and Zaragoza beat Levante 2-1. Mallorca were the only team within reach.
Michael Laudrup’s side were always trailing at home to Atletico Madrid and eventually lost 4-3. In the 200 or so possible head-to-head combinations had any of the sides finished level on points, the islanders would come off second best compared to Depor.
In the frantic final minutes, as the ball ricocheted around the Valencia area, it was easy see to why Depor were in the mess they were in.
Home keeper Daniel Aranzubia joined his toothless strikers but was unable to conjure up a repeat of the injury-time header that earned a point against Almeria back in February.
The Galicians finished with a league-low 31 goals from 38 games – the same number Lionel Messi scored and nine less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s league record tally.
The club from the north-west corner of Spain go down after 20 years in La Liga. They won the league title in 2000, the King’s Cup in 1995 and 2002 and reached the Champions League semi-finals in 2003.
Depor have been struggling for five or six years now and with crippling debts it could be a long way back.
One commentator wrote in El Pais: “Everyone in La Coruna knows this is not a simple relegation. Deportivo are entering a situation in which their very survival is at stake. They aren’t starting again from zero, but from minus 10.”
Welcome back Rayo
Rayo Vallecano returned to La Liga in style with a 3-0 home victory over Xerez on Sunday, a major achievement for a group of players who have not been paid for most of the season.
The cash-strapped club, from a working class district in the south-east of Madrid, were already struggling when the Ruiz-Mateos family business, Nueva Rumasa, applied to go into administration in February.
The players threatened to go on strike over the non-payment of wages, fans protested and called for the owners to go and finally the majority shareholding was sold to a 36-year-old local businessman, Raul Martin.
Through it all, the team maintained their winning momentum and secured promotion, though the club remain saddled with debts of over 20 million euros and an unsure future.
It is the first time four clubs from Madrid have been in La Liga at the same time and Rayo will play local derbies against Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Getafe next season.
PHOTO: Deportivo Coruna’s Alberto Lopo reacts during the club’s La Liga match against Barcelona at Nou Camp stadium ,May 15, 2011. REUTERS/Albert Gea.