Goals from Alfonso Pedraza and Moi Gómez earned Villarreal a 2-0 win at Barcelona on Sunday to secure a spot in the Europa Conference League after finishing seventh in La Liga.
After reaching the Champions League semi-finals this season, Unai Emery’s side entered the final week of the season in danger of missing out on European competition completely.
With the top six already determined, Villarreal started the day in seventh, one point ahead of Athletic Bilbao who were playing at fourth-placed Sevilla at the same time. They needed to win at Camp Nou to guarantee qualification, but second-placed Barça side had nothing left to play for and put up little fight.
Pedraza scored the opener in the 40th minute with a precise shot after receiving a fine through ball from Dani Parejo and Gómez sealed the win in the 54th, striking powerfully home from close range after Adama Traoré made a mistake while trying to clear the ball from his own area.
Athletic ended up losing 1-0 to Sevilla to finish in eighth place, with Rafa Mir’s winner leaving the Basque side four points behind Villarreal. Sevilla finished fourth, a point behind Atlético Madrid who won 2-1 at Real Sociedad.
Rodrigo De Paul put the visitors in front with a fine long-range effort, before Ángel Correa made sure of victory. Real Sociedad had already secured a Europa League spot; they finish sixth, with Real Betis fifth after playing out a goalless draw at the Bernabéu against the champions, Real Madrid.
Aitor Karanka’s Granada side were relegated after a goalless draw at home to Espanyol, as both Cádiz and Real Mallorca won their respective games to stay up. Granada started the day 16th, and missed a golden opportunity to win their match when 40-year-old Jorge Molina put a penalty kick wide in the 70th minute.
It looked as though a point might be enough, with Cádiz struggling to find a breakthrough at already-relegated Alavés. But six minutes after Molina’s miss, Choco Lozano fired home from close range to seal survival by a single point.
Mallorca, who lost seven consecutive games between late February and early April, completed their impressive comeback since the arrival of the Mexican manager Javier Aguirre with a 2-0 win at Osasuna. Ángel Rodríguez opened the scoring at the start of the second half, before Clément Grenier struck from a rebound seven minutes from time to confirm their salvation.
“I couldn’t sleep for several weeks, tormented with this anguish and agony and now this is just incredible what we managed to achieve,” Rodriguez said. “It was a difficult season, some really difficult days for us, our families and the fans, but we fought until the end and it was worth it. I can’t believe we did it.”