Sociedad rescues point, Espanyol wins
Carlos Vela scored a 75th-minute equalizer Saturday to give Real Sociedad a 1-1 draw at Elche in Spain, keeping the Basque side undefeated before it completes a critical playoff to reach the Champions League group stage.
Also, Espanyol fought back to beat Valencia 3-1 for its first victory of the Spanish league season, while Villarreal scored its second late winner in as many weeks to rally 2-1 over Valladolid.
Early at Martinez Valero Stadium, Sociedad appeared to be looking ahead to Wednesday when it hosts Lyon with a 2-0 advantage heading into their second leg with Europe's top tier club competition at stake.
Elche struck two minutes in when Ferran ''Coro'' Corominas tapped in a corner kick earned from the hosts' pressure that continued to cause Sociedad problems through the first half.
Elche went close to scoring again through headers by Alberto Botia and Manuel del Moral on either side of halftime, and was on course for its first win in the topflight for 25 years after being promoted last spring.
But Sociedad slowly pushed Elche onto its back foot, and Vela was left unmarked to volley in Xabi Prieto's cross for his second goal in as many league games.
The Mexico forward nearly took the full three points for Sociedad with a curling strike from outside the area that clipped the bar two minutes from time.
''Given how the game went, a point isn't too bad, even though at the end we had a chance to win,'' said Vela. ''The first half was theirs, but in the second we knew how to rectify the situation. The point is good and now we have to keep working to finish off the job of going to the Champions League.''
Espanyol created three clear scoring opportunities before Valencia's Helder Postiga snatched the 10th-minute opener at Cornella-El Prat Stadium.
The goal, however, didn't change the flow of the match, and Espanyol defender David Lopez headed in Simao Sabrosa's corner kick in the 31st.
Christian Stuani headed Espanyol in front two minutes after the break, jumping and redirecting a free kick by Juan Fuentes off the post and into the net.
Forward Thievy Bifouma sealed the result in the 89th with his second goal in two games coming of Espanyol's bench after an excellent dribble and assist by Manuel Lanzarote.
When Valencia coach Miroslav Djukic was hired this summer he said he had returned to his former club to ''awaken a sleeping giant.''
After its poor performance Saturday the former Serb defender wasn't so optimistic.
''I'm ashamed,'' said Djukic. ''We talk a lot and think we are stars but maybe we aren't. We have to come down from the clouds because perhaps we aren't so good. We looked ridiculous. We can't achieve anything with this attitude.''
Villarreal also had to come from behind to edge the visiting Valladolid after Javi Guerra finished off a team build up of five passes in the fourth minute.
Giovani Dos Santos made it 1-1 in the 38th by slicing a penalty kick off the post after Valladolid's Gilberto ''Alcatraz'' Garcia fouled Jauma Costa in the area.
Dos Santos had given Villarreal its first win last week with a goal in the 86th.
This time it fell to Ruben ''Cani'' Gracia to charge forward on the break and blast the ball into the top corner in the 83rd to keep Villarreal perfect in its return to the first division.
On Friday, Athletic Bilbao beat Osasuna 2-0, while Getafe drew 2-2 at home with Almeria.
Barcelona visits Malaga Sunday with Lionel Messi unavailable after injuring his leg midweek in a 1-1 draw at Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Also, Atletico faces Rayo Vallecano, Sevilla travels to Levante, and Real Betis plays Celta.
Real Madrid visits Granada on Monday.