MADRID, Spain, May 18 – Valencia held their nerve to secure La Liga’s last Champions League place on Saturday as a 2-0 victory over Real Valladolid ended the hopes of Getafe and Sevilla of snatching fourth.
Getafe had to better Valencia’s result at the Estadio Jose Zorrilla as they faced Villarreal, while Sevilla needed to beat Athletic Bilbao and hope both Getafe and Valencia lost.
Sevilla did their part by seeing off Bilbao 2-0 while Getafe drew 2-2 but Valencia ensured those results did not matter and reached the Champions League for a second consecutive year.
“It has been an outstanding season,” said Valencia coach Marcelino. “We have had a lot of problems but we stayed calm. To get back into the Champions League again is a great achievement.”
Valencia sit seven points behind Real Madrid, who play Real Betis at home on Sunday, and are 15 adrift of second-placed Atletico, who drew 2-2 away at Levante, with Antoine Griezmann jeered in his final match for the club.
At the bottom, Girona joined Rayo Vallecano and Huesca in being relegated after they were beaten 2-1 away at Alaves.
Valencia’s Champions League chances looked slim when a miserable start to the season left them 15th after 15 games, with a scrap for survival more likely than a dash for the top four.
They did reach the Europa League semifinals but defeat to Arsenal two weeks ago closed that route to the Champions League.
Their season could have a final flourish if they beat a drained Barcelona and win the Copa del Rey on May 25.
“It’s one goal achieved after a difficult season,” said captain Dani Parejo. “But there is still one more to do.”
After 11 weeks in the top four, fifth place and the Europa League might come as a disappointment for Getafe, even for a team promoted to the top flight only two seasons ago and whose annual wage bill is less than one tenth of Real Madrid’s.
“We don’t feel sorry for ourselves, not at all,” said Getafe coach Jose Bordalas. “At the start of the season, we would definitely have signed for this.”
Sevilla qualify for the Europa League too, finishing sixth after Ben Yedder and Munir El Haddadi extinguished Bilbao’s own hopes of European football next season.
Instead, Sevilla are joined by Espanyol, whose fans invaded the pitch when the full-time whistle blew at Cornella, where a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad means the Catalan side clinched seventh.
– Griezmann bitter farewell –
Getafe sat fourth for 23 minutes on Saturday, after Francisco Portillo pulled an early shot into the corner, but news soon filtered through that Valencia had scored against Valladolid, Carlos Soler capitalising on a mistake by Kiko Olivas.
From there, everything went Valencia’s way as Rodrigo gave them a two-goal cushion, shortly after Villarreal’s Vicente Iborra had nodded in an equaliser against Getafe.
A brilliant header from Nemanja Maksimovic looked to have given Getafe a winning finish but Gerard Moreno’s angled shot bobbled its way in after some clumsy handling by David Soria.
Earlier, Griezmann was barracked by fans during his last game for Atletico and Rodrigo might have scored his final goal for the club as they came back from two goals down to draw with Levante.
Griezmann was whistled at the City of Valencia Stadium by visiting fans, who were also heard chanting “out, out, out” before goals from Sergio Camello and Rodrigo ensured Atletico ended the season with a point.
“We had to highlight the work of the gladiators who are leaving,” coach Diego Simeone said afterwards.
“Their greatest legacy is not the titles won, it is their commitment and respect. I love them very much.”
Simeone has dismissed fears of a mass exodus, despite both Diego Godin and Griezmann already announcing their departures, with the likes of Rodrigo, Juanfran and Filipe Luis all expected to follow.
If this was to be their farewell outing for Atletico, it was an underwhelming finale as impressive Levante could have been out of sight before they were eventually pegged back.
Simeone’s side finish runners up with 76 points. They come in above Real Madrid for a second consecutive year but will end up 13 points behind Barcelona, if the Catalans win away at Eibar on Sunday.