MADRID (Reuters) – Valencia secured Champions League football for the second year in a row by winning 2-0 at Real Valladolid on Saturday, clinching fourth place in La Liga at the expense of Getafe who drew 2-2 at home to Villarreal.
Marcelino’s side had to win to guarantee finishing fourth and after surviving the home side hitting the post they took the lead in the 36th minute when Carlos Soler calmly tucked the ball into the net to finish off a clinical counter-attack.
Spain international Rodrigo, who had played a crucial in the opening goal by winning back possession, scored the second from close range in the 52nd after midfielder Dani Parejo robbed the ball from a Valladolid defender deep in the hosts’ half.
Valencia ended the campaign on 61 points to take fourth spot for a second consecutive season, while Getafe came fifth with 59 and qualified for the Europa League.
Marcelino’s side will now have an extra spring in their step when they face Barcelona in next week’s Copa del Rey final where they will be looking to add shine to an impressive end to what has been a turbulent campaign.
Valencia were languishing in 12th position in the standings in December and there were repeated calls from supporters for Marcelino to be sacked.
“It has been a very difficult year with a lot of demanding games,” said captain Parejo.
“We didn’t make the best start but by working hard we’ve managed to turn things around. We’ve achieved our first objective and now we have another final on Saturday.”
Valencia’s director general Mateu Alemany added: “The club showed patience and trust, we always knew the team was being well managed even though things weren’t coming off but we stayed calm and had the second half of the season we expected.”
Getafe needed to better Valencia’s result to qualify for Europe’s elite competition for the first time and took an early lead through Francisco Portillo, although Villarreal’s Vicente Iborra levelled before halftime.
Getafe retook the lead through Nemanja Maksimovic, only for Gerard Moreno to equalise with three minutes left after a howler from goalkeeper David Soria saw the ball trickle over the line.
Even though they missed out on the coveted fourth spot, Getafe still achieved their highest ever points total in the top flight and the players carried coach Jose Bordalas on their shoulders at the end of the game.
Sevilla also qualified for the Europa League by coming sixth with 59 points after winning 2-0 at home to Athletic Bilbao, which meant Espanyol finished seventh and qualified for Europe at the Basque side’s expense.
Espanyol qualified for the competition by the skin of their teeth, though, as Athletic’s Inigo Martinez hit the woodwork in stoppage-time before Sevilla’s Munir El Haddadi scored at the other end. A draw would have meant Athletic finish seventh.
Espanyol’s supporters staged a mass pitch invasion to celebrate the club’s return to European competition for the first time in 12 years.
“It’s impossible to forget this moment,” said Espanyol coach Rubi.
“I’ve not cried for a long time but today I did, and veteran players are crying, the dressing room is flooded with tears.”
(Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond)