Entente Cordobese secures Celta’s return to the top

Home side and Córdoba play keep ball to achieve season-ending goals

Celta players celebrate the team's promotion to Primera.
Celta players celebrate the team's promotion to Primera.LALO R. VILLAR (DIARIO AS)

Under normal circumstances, paying customers at Celta Vigo’s Balaídos Stadium on Sunday might have asked why they had bothered to part with their money in these times of economic woe: the home side and visiting Córdoba barely tried to conceal their lack of intent, neither side going so far as to muster a shot on goal. But on a balmy Galician evening the fans didn’t care a jot — by a quirk of the points situation and fixture scheduling, a single point sufficed to send Celta back to Primera and assured Córdoba’s place in the playoffs.

“It shouldn’t surprise anybody,” noted Córdoba coach Paco Jémez, whose side scarcely crossed the halfway line, of the result. Indeed it didn't; bookmakers weren't even taking bets on the game. “We have played 41 spectacular weeks, competing against the entire division and giving an exhibition of what this team is all about. If in the last match of the season we had to do this, it was for our own interest, nothing more. It would be very unfair to assess us just on what happened in this game and not for what we have achieved all season.”

Ceasefire

Nobody in Vigo was arguing: after a five-year absence from the top flight it was not going to risk breaking the tacit ceasefire with third-placed Valladolid waiting in the wings to snatch second if the Galicians lost. The club’s own economic woes have received a huge boon, with increased television revenue and merchandise sales set to ease its estimated 51-million-euro debt. Immediately after the game, Celta players donned next season’s Primera strip, which will be flying off Vigo store shelves all summer.

“This promotion is more satisfying for me because we are coming out of some bad years,” said team captain Borja Oubiña, who was in the squad that won Segunda in 2005. “We have turned around a pessimism that has been hanging over the city.”

Local rival Deportivo spent just one season in the lower tier, during which time Galicia was unrepresented in Primera for the first time since 1990-91, and snatched the division title with a record 91 points. Valladolid eventually finished third and will face Córdoba over two legs for a place in the top flight. The other playoff semifinal pits Alcorcón against Hércules.

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