LIGA SOCCER

Almería seals promotion to Primera after playoff victory

Second ascent for southern team means there will be five Andalusian clubs in top flight next season

Almería sealed its return to Primera División after two years with a 3-0 home win over Girona on Saturday, giving it a 4-0 aggregate victory.

It is the second time the southern team has won promotion to the top flight as well as the second time Pamplona-born coach Javi Gracia has achieved it in Andalusia, having managed the same feat with Cádiz in 2009.

A man who works hard and says little, Gracia is the first coach Almería president Alfonso García has kept for an entire season since Unai Emery departed for Valencia. The current Sevilla coach led the team to its first historic promotion in 2007 and a magnificent eighth place in its debut season in Primera.

Almería has made it back there thanks to the hard work of Gracia and a squad that mixes youth and experience to perfection. Brazilian striker Charles has been the standout, netting 32 goals this season, including adding two second-half strikes to Aleix Vidal’s 17th-minute opener on Saturday.

Five Andalusians

With Almería’s return there will be five Andalusian sides in the top flight next season, something not seen since 2008 when Sevilla, Málaga, Almería, Betis and Recreativo were vying for Liga glory.

After finishing third in Segunda’s regular season and missing out on direct promotion on the last day of the season to Villarreal, Almería beat Las Palmas (3-2) and Girona (4-0) in the playoffs to seal its ascent.

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