Barcelona draw resilient Deportivo; Valencia earn last UCL spot
BARCELONA, Spain — Valencia fought back twice to earn a Champions League berth with a 3-2 away win that relegated Almeria on a dramatic final day of the Spanish league Saturday.
Eibar also went down despite beating last-place Cordoba 3-0, while Deportivo La Coruna stayed up after coming from two goals down to draw 2-2 at already crowned champion Barcelona. Lionel Messi had put Barcelona in front with his 42nd and 43rd league goals of the season.
Granada was rescued by a 0-0 draw with Atletico Madrid, which finished in third place a year after winning the league title.
Sevilla had to settle for a fifth-place finish despite beating 10-man Malaga 3-2. Unai Emery’s side can still reach the Champions League by successfully defending its Europa League title against Dnipro in Warsaw on Wednesday.
Athletic Bilbao is bound for the Europa League along with Sevilla and Villarreal after securing seventh place with a 4-0 rout of Villarreal.
Emotions ran highest at Almeria where the hosts twice scored to go ahead and provisionally escape the bottom three spots.
But Valencia’s Nicolas Otamendi answered Thomas Partey’s opener, and Sofiane Feghouli struck just before halftime to cancel out Fernando Soriano’s goal.
Valencia still needed Paco Alcacer to run onto a long pass and fire the ball beyond goalie Ruben Martinez with 10 minutes left to clinch a top-four finish and a ticket to Europe’s top-tier competition.
At Camp Nou, Barcelona’s fans paid homage to Xavi Hernandez, who played his last league game after 17 seasons at the club. The midfielder is leaving the club for Qatar this summer, and supports held up an enormous banner that read: ”Thanks Xavi, 17 seasons 1998-2015.”
Xavi then received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Andres Iniesta with five minutes remaining. He responded by blowing kisses to the stands before showing some tears in the dugout after taking his club record to 765 appearances.
Xavi will get one more chance to play at Camp Nou next weekend when Barcelona hosts Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final. Barcelona will then play Juventus for the European Cup in Berlin on June 6.
Defender Thomas Vermaelen made his debut for Barcelona in its starting 11 after a season plagued by injuries following his move from Arsenal last summer.
Barcelona received an honor guard from Deportivo for its 23rd league crown, and the visitors seemed ready to roll over after Messi headed in Rafina’s cross in the fifth minute.
Messi tapped in Neymar’s pass to make it 2-0 in the 60th, but Lucas Perez gave Deportivo a lifeline seven minutes later with a rising strike from just inside the area.
The visitors then got the goal they were desperately searching for when Diogo Salomao beat goalkeeper Jordi Masip in his league debut with a 76th-minute equalizer.
It was a double jubilation on the Camp Nou pitch after the game as Deportivo’s players celebrated staying up, before Xavi received the league trophy from federation president Angel Maria Villar and presented it to the crowd.
Elsewhere, Real Sociedad thrashed Rayo Vallecano 4-2, 10-man Celta Vigo rallied to beat Espanyol 3-2, and Elche drew 0-0 at Levante.
Runner-up Real Madrid hosted Getafe later.