La Liga

Villarreal fights for thrilling win

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Giovani Dos Santos scored the equalizer and set up the late winner in a four-minute span to lead Villarreal's 3-2 comeback victory at Almeria on Monday, ensuring its successful return to Spain's first division.

Also in the last games of the opening round, Alberto Bueno scored two goals as Rayo Vallecano spoiled Elche's first game in Spain's topflight in 24 years, and Espanyol came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo.

Promoted Almeria outplayed Villarreal in front of its fans at Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium in the first half, with striker Rodrigo Rios scoring in the 39th minute from a pass from Rafael Ramos.

Villarreal leveled in the 65th through Sebastian Dubarbier's own goal, but Rios restored the hosts' lead when he controlled Jesus ''Suso'' Fernandez's cross and fired home to record a double in the 74th.

Almeria looked set to collect the three points until Javier Aquino passed for fellow Mexico international Dos Santos to tap in and make it 2-2 in the 83rd.

Dos Santos created the winner three minutes later by dribbling down the right side, cutting back, and passing between two defenders for Jonathan Pereira to send the ball bouncing into the corner of the net.

While Villarreal discovered a star in Dos Santos, Rayo did so with Bueno.

Rayo acquired Bueno from Valladolid earlier this month, and the attacking midfielder did his best to help the Madrid-based team forget the several first-choice players it sold this offseason to reduce debt.

Bueno shone early with his passing at Vallecas Stadium and scored when Saul Niguez found him running clear down the center of the area to fire the ball into the net in the 40th.

Alberto Perea went on for the injured Jose Carlos Fernandez and doubled the lead with a long-range strike in the 44th, before Bueno also struck from outside the area in the 74th.

Rayo coach Paco Jemez applauded the contributions especially of his new players, including Saul, who arrived on loan from Atletico Madrid in the offseason.

''The dynamic of the way we work at Rayo makes it so all the new people adapt quickly to the mechanisms of our team,'' Jemez said. ''We need another signing. We are not lacking quality, but we are short on quantity.''


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Espanyol rallied after Denmark midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli assisted on two goals to give Celta a commanding advantage.

Krohn-Dehli brightened a fouled-filled first half in the 42nd by using an audacious flip to scoop the ball over a defender and leave Alex Lopez alone to beat goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.

Celta went up 2-0 seconds after halftime when Krohn-Dehli picked out unmarked striker Charles in the area to head his lobbed pass down into the corner of the net.

But Espanyol midfielder Victor Sanchez halved the difference in the 53rd with a curled strike from long range, and Javi Lopez met substitute Thievy Bifouma's run with a long pass for the forward to size up the `keeper and drive in the 75th-minute equalizer.

Casilla still had to make an acrobatic save to tip Gustavo Cabral's header over the bar to ensure the point for Javier Aguirre's side.

On Sunday, Barcelona thrashed Levante 7-0 with Lionel Messi scoring twice in the debut of Brazil striker Neymar. Real Madrid edged out Real Betis 2-1, Atletico Madrid beat Sevilla 3-1, and Granada won 2-1 at Osasuna.

On Saturday, Real Sociedad beat Getafe 2-0, Athletic Bilbao downed Valladolid 2-1, and Valencia won 1-0 over Malaga.

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