El Centrocampista

Valladolid banish the demons as Spain’s top flight beckons


Just over two years ago, Real Valladolid travelled to the Camp Nou for a final day fixture against Barcelona that both sides simply had to win. Victory for the Catalans would put them beyond reach of their bitter rivals Real Madrid to secure a second successive La Liga title, while Javier Clemente’s side sat just two places above the drop zone –  albeit level on points with Racing and Malaga below them.

Barça  romped to a 4-0 triumph that night which ultimately sealed Valladolid’s fate as Racing  beat Sporting Gijon 2-0 at el Sardinero and Malaga secured a home point against Real Madrid. It was the third time in three seasons that el Pucela had gone into the final day looking to avoid the drop, however after two previous last-gasp escapes, it was third time unlucky.

The heartbreak of two years ago was put to rest last night however, after a 1-1 draw against Alcorcon gave them the 2-1 aggregate victory that will see Valladolid take their place with the Segunda champions Deportivo and runners-up Celta Vigo in the Primera Division next season.

The side from Castille and Leon came close last season, when Abel Resino guided them into the play-offs where they were beaten by Elche, but there are few doubts that the 2011/12 side of Miroslav Dukic certainly deserve to end their 24-month stay in the country’s second tier of football.

Alcorcon may have enjoyed the majority of support from those neutral fans watching the game, as Juan Antonio Anquela’s side looked to cap a remarkable rise from the Madrid regional league, but Valladolid proved worthy winners after just missing out on automatic promotion in the regular season.

Ironically it was Alcorcon who ultimately finished Valladolid’s hopes of going straight up with Depor, after they fought back from two goals down to rescue a point when the two sides met at Santo Domingo on the penultimate day of the season – victory would have put Dukic’s men firmly in the driving seat as they faced struggling Guadalajara on the final day, however the draw left Celta free to play out a somewhat predictablle goaless encounter against Cordoba (who also only neeeded a point too secure their play-off place) to snatch the final promotion spot with their Galician neighbours.

And so it was the play-offs for Valladolid who, after dispatching Cordoba in the semi-finals, went into last nights game at a bouncing Jose Zorilla firm favourites after Javi Guerra had given them a 1-0 advantage following the first leg at Santo Domingo on Wednesday.

Despite the early pressure from the hosts,  it was Alcorcon who took the lead when Fernando Sales got on the end of a long punt forward from Agus to loop the ball over a stranded Dani Hernandez in the Valladolid goal. The joy was obvious on the touchline as Alcorcon moved to within one goal of completing a remarkable triumph  – one that would have surely even eclipsed their famous 4-0 Copa del Rey thumping of Real Madrid in 2009.

There was to be no fairytale ending however as Javi Guerra struck to draw the sides level five minutes into the second half – stroking into an empty net after Oscar had beaten the off-side trap to set up the striker to score his 20th goal of the season.

It was a valiant effort from Alcorcon and they continued to surge forward in search of the goal that would have put them back in control of the tie, but in truth it was the home side who should have wrapped things up earlier after hitting the post and squandering a number of guilt-edged chances.

With no more goals, there were jubilant scenes at the final whistle as home fans celebrated on the pitch with the team, and understandably so – after all Valladolid were in contention for automatic promotion for the majority of the season and eventually finished a substantial nine points above fourth-placed Alcorcon in the table.

However, the hard work will now begin as the prepare for life back in the top flight. The qaugmire that developed at the bottom end of the la liga last season proved a dangerous place for any that found themselves dragged into it, just ask Villarreal, and Dukic is sure to be mindful of this.

Nonetheless, all three promoted teams have shown enough during this campaign to suggest they are capable of achieving mid-table finishes next season – Valladolid will certainly be hoping they can avoid yet another final day decider against a team like Barcelona.



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