According to Belinda Carlisle – eighties lip sync diva – Heaven is Place on Earth. Now, aside from the obvious metaphysical conundrum presented by this affection, and if it’s true that His domain really does exist beneath our feet, it could well have been on the trampled grass of the Estadio Balaídos late on Saturday night where Celta managed to turn the slow death of eighteeth spot to the life breathing elixir of seventeenth – which comes with top flight residency guaranteed.
The goal that half sealed their salvation with a victory over Espanyol came courtesy of seventeen year old Natxo Insa – who should really have been in bed or getting squiffy on the toxic combo of Coca Cola and red wine, not turning into an automatic folk hero who make old men cry for the right reasons.
I say half sealed as the goal that really mattered for the sky blues was that which Real Sociedad’s Antoine Griezmann scored up the road at A Coruna which meant that the Galician rivals swapped league positions, with Depor dropping into the purgatory of La Segunda after only a season back in the top flight.
These results also ended both Mallorca’s unlikely escape, despite a creditable four two defeat of Valladolid in Palma, and Zaragoza’s own thwarted attempt with a three one home reverse to Atleti. So whilst Celta and La Real found their own little patches of nirvana, valhalla or heaven, as the ex Go-Go would have had it, as of Saturday last , Mallorca, Zaragoza and Depor are gone-gone.
La Real’s win combined with Valencia’s loss away to Sevilla meant that the boys from San Sebastian are now Champions League starters. Valencia have good cause for complaint with some bewildering refereeing decisions going against them but as they’ve been on the pleasure end of some equally baffling calls from the man in the middle, it would be churlish to gripe too much.
In the weekends early(ish) kick-off’s, Barca got the three points they needed to get to the one hundred mark with a four one home thumping of Malaga. Meanwhile Real Madrid were bidding farewell to Jose with an interesting cocktail of adoration; ‘Thanks for Everything’ – read one hand fashioned bedsheet, and withered contempt on another which read ‘Thanks. Now don’t come back’. Jose won’t mind though, as he also received a specially produced plaque courtesy of the Ultra Sur to pop on the mantelpiece in Berkshire/Surrey/South Ken alongside the three points gained with a four two victory over Osasuna.
Your correspondent had the dubious pleasure of a Vallecas Rhapsody in Orange – above – as Bilbao travelled to the capital and secured a two-all draw against the revelation of the season, Rayo Vallecano. The travelling Lions fans would have been pleased to finally see a little bit of spirit from Athletic, who managed the point despite being down to ten men within nine minutes of kick-off after Aritz Aduriz had a rush of moron to the grey matter and got himself double yellowed (no, that’s not a motoring offence).
Sucking up the sweet nectar of European Competition will be Betis, who confirmed what we already knew; they’re going to the UEFA Cup’s current incarnation with a one all away draw to Levante. Granada signed-off with a two nil home win to Getafe who’s own aspirations were undone by season long inconsistency.
And that, is that. The usual two did you know what and finished champions and runners-up. Atleti (always pleading poverty – but penury in comparison to Real Madrid sounds a little like somebody complaining that they’re down to their last million) came third and now have fifty million from the sale of El Tigre to shower on players. For the nostalgist, La Real’s ascendancy to fourth spot and the Champions League will warm the cockles for a likeable squad and a well run club.
Real Sociedad’s gain was very much Valencia’s loss as the Che find themselves in the Europa League with mouth watering ties against Motherwell and Wigan Atletic at six pm on a Thursday afternoon in prospect, rather than humdrum encounters with FC Bayern and Juventus.
And Malaga? What of them? Well, they’re in seventh position which, nominally at least, is sufficient for Europe. Not this year, however, as they’re being castigated for the crime of having fibbed a little about money. Then again, if they ask nicely, the LFP and UEFA may let them back in. We should discover the outcome of this later in the week.
So too Rayo, who despite their best season in their ninetieth year, miss out on Europe through off-pitch financial wrongdoing. As a result, they cede their spot to Sevilla who despite a ninth place finish – a full fifty points behind Barcelona and only fourteen above Depor find themselves dusting off the passports and dreaming of Mozart in Freiburg, a nice Fado in Estoril or even a triple words Scrabble score against Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the middle of nowhere.
Whilst La Primera has drawn the final curtain, football action continues next weekend with La Segunda clubs scraping for the final promotion spot to the promised land. And the fixture computer has had the good grace to throw up a cracker when second placed Villarreal play Almeria who sit behind their hosts on goal difference only with the winner joining Champions Elche in the Primera – it’s next Saturday at 7pm Spanish mainland time, if you’re interested. The loser will have to settle for the play-offs with Girona, Alcorcon and La Palmas the likely adversaries, although Ponferradina may just squeeze out one of the latter two.
So what, if anything, have we learnt from this season? Well, the canyonesque gap that exist’s between the rich and poor in Spain will continue to grow until the league put a halt to TV payment weighed heavily in favour of the big two, who scoop around 77% of total TV revenue.
Previously, Milton Friedman would have been rubbing his hands together as this money ‘trickled-down’ the league to less financially well-to-do clubs. Today, Madrid are contemplating a morally suspect one hundred million euro smash-and-grab raid for Tottenham Hotspurs’ hair wax addict, Gareth Bale whilst teams up and down the country do themselves considerable fiscal mischief just trying to keep up. The ‘moral’ choice, Barcelona haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory with their own casino show in plundering of half boy/half Sonic the Hedgehog, Neymar.
The other problem highlighted by this lopsided cash disbursement is the reduction of competitivity in La Liga which drains the league of it’s better players to those clubs overseas that can pay, and deprives the Madrid/Barcelona duopoly of the chance to benchmark themselves against the best teams from other leagues on the continent which results in chastening losses in competitions they believe themselves to have a divine right to.
Another learning was that having nearly every game kicking-off at different times doesn’t really work. The site of Getafe and Sevilla kicking-off on a dreary Saturday night in January in front of about three thousand die-hard’s is proof positive that there is such a thing as too much football. To compound this, the LFP’s inability to decide upon kick-off times until two weeks before the event doesn’t do much for the away supporter. Spain, if you’ve ever driven across it, is a vast country and if you don’t know when you’re team is due to kick-off why would you bother booking a flight, train or embarking on a colossal trek to an away match in a country where Barcelona to Seville takes around twelve hours by car.
Anyway, those are gripes that we’ll be covering over the summer months when we continue to sprinkle your working week with a load of grammatically third rate waffle about Spanish football. If you happen to come to us via the first-rate backpagefootball.com, you may be interested to know that we also spouting nonsense on Facebook and Twitter whilst if you’ve already arrived through the world of social, please give us a like, share or re-tweet. And if you’re really, really, really inclined you could always leave a (non-offensive) comment.
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