Atletico Madrid clinch Champions League berth, Zaragoza in trouble

May 12th, 2008 - 12:35 pm ICT by admin  

Madrid, May 12 (DPA) Atletico Madrid are back in the Champions League after 11 years’ absence, thanks to a 1-0 home win over Deportivo Coruna. The tense win Sunday night allows Atletico to clinch fourth place in La Liga. Javier Aguirre’s team are three points ahead of Sevilla, who won 2-0 away to crosstown rivals Betis, with just one game less.

“This was a really important win,” Atletico captain Antonio Lopez told Canal Plus.

“Our wonderful fans deserve this,” he added, “after all they have suffered in the past few years.”

Atletico won with a solitary goal from Diego Forlan, turning in a centre from Maxi Rodriguez in stoppage time at the end of the first half.

The tension increased in the second half, with Atletico looking nervous and short of confidence.

With just five minutes left Deportivo defender Fabricio Coloccini hit the Atletico post. The final whistle was greeted with delight by the capacity crowd in the Vicente Calderon.

Atletico could actually finish third, since they are now level on 64 points points with Barcelona, who dramatically crashed 2-3 at home to UEFA Cup hopefuls Mallorca 2-3.

Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o had given Barca a seemingly decisive 2-0 lead.

But the bad habits of the past two years again caused the Catalans to lose their rhythm - allowing Borja Valero, Pierre Webo and league top scorer Daniel Guiza to turn the game around with late goals.

It was a terrible way for coach Frank Rijkaard to say goodbye to the Camp Nou, where he has been coach since 2003. Rijkaard will be replaced by former Barca captain Josep Guardiola in June.

Once again, there was an after-match protest outside the Camp Nou, with hundreds of fans calling for the resignation of president Joan Laporta.

The late win leaves Mallorca in seventh place, just one point behind Racing Santander, who draw 0-0 in Bilbao. Sevilla are four points ahead of Santander after their defeat of Betis, and therefore guaranteed a place in the UEFA Cup.

Second-placed Villarreal, meanwhile, were stretching their lead over Barcelona and Atletico to 10 points, with a 2-0 home win over Espanyol, with first-half goals from Javi Venta and Robert Pires.

Villarreal are eight points behind champions Real Madrid, who drew 2-2 away to troubled Zaragoza in a breathtaking game.

Ricardo Oliveira gave Zaragoza an early lead, only for the fit-again Ruud Van Nistelrooy to quickly level for Real.

Robinho silenced the Zaragoza crowd 13 minutes from time by putting the visitors 2-1 ahead with an exquisite lob.

Defeat would have practically relegated Zaragoza, who then laid siege to the Real goal. Defender Sergio Fernandez made it 2-2 five minutes from time, but the hosts then missed a string of excellent late chances.

The draw leaves Zaragoza third from bottom, with only relegation victims Murcia and Levante below them.

Zaragoza have just 42 points and need to win away to Mallorca next Sunday and hope that other results go their way.

“It was incredible,” a disappointed Fernandez told Radio Marca, “that we did not win tonight, with all the chances we had.”

The burly defender added that “we now just have to concentrate on beating Mallorca, without stopping to think about the other results on the last day.”

Osasuna have 43 points after a 2-1 defeat of Murcia. Also on 43 are Recreativo Huelva, who won 2-0 in Almeria.

On 44 points are Valladolid, held to a 0-0 draw with Getafe, who are level on 46 with Betis.

Valencia are now level with Espanyol on 48 after an emphatic 5-1 win away to hapless local rivals Levante, in which Spain striker David Villa hit a handsome hat-trick.

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