A late goal by Numancia’s Pape Diamanka stunned Real Zaragoza and punched his side’s ticket to a playoff final encounter with Real Valladolid, who confidently saw off rivals Sporting in the other tie.
REAL ZARAGOZA 1
(Numancia win 3-2 on aggregate)
Following Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw, the visitors signalled their intent early on. Nacho, who had replaced the injured Unai Medina within ten minutes, saw his effort rebound off the base of Cristian Álvarez’s post in a cagey first half. Real Zaragoza did not threaten until Gaizka Toquero’s cross from the right hand side was met by Alberto Zapater but a glancing header by the goalscorer in the previous leg went straight at Aitor.
In the second half, Aitor was the busier of the two goalkeepers and pulled off a string of saves to deny the home side. Firstly, he blocked Zapater again after the midfielder had been cleverly set up by Borja Iglesias. He was called into action again to repel an effort from Giorgi Papunashvili with his leg, but his best save came when he kept out a close range shot from Borja Iglesias, who looked certain to score, before Papunashvili sent the rebound wide.
It was this solidity from the goalkeeper that allowed Numancia to press forward and take the lead just after the hour mark. Nacho crossed from the right for Guillermo, who had only been on the field for three minutes, and somehow the substitute managed to channel the ball with his heel into the path of Iñigo Peréz. The midfielder showed great composure to take a touch, thus enabling him to pick his spot, and he sent a left footed effort past Álvarez to give the visitors the lead overall in the tie.
Eleven minutes from time, the crowd at La Romareda were given hope through an equaliser from defender Mikel González. Left-back Daniel Lasure floated a ball in from the flank and a slight flick on from Zapater allowed Borja Iglesias to send a downward volley goalward. Aitor looked to have been beaten by the awkward bounce but clawed it back out, only for González to bundle the ball across the line. The goal was a scrappy one, however it levelled the aggregate score at 2-2.
As extra time loomed, the home fans were left crest-fallen as Diamanka connected with a first-time cross from Peréz in the 91st minute and crashed a header solidly past Álvarez which edged Numancia into the next round and brutally ended Real Zaragoza’s season.
SPORTING GIJÓN 1
REAL VALLADOLID 2
(Real Valladolid win 5-2 on aggregate)
Real Valladolid booked their place in the playoff final as they saw off their bitter rivals Sporting at El Molinon.
Having won the first leg of this tie 3-1 at the José Zorrilla, the visitors were in buoyant mood ahead of this clash and looked to pick up from where they left off on Thursday. League top-scorer Jaime Mata was instrumental in the victory and it was his industry which saw the first threat on ex-Valladolid ‘keeper Diego Mariño’s goal. He burst down the left touchline before cutting into the box and delivering a tempting ball for Pablo Hervías, but he shot straight at the goalkeeper with the goal at his mercy.
At the other end, Sporting fashioned a chance of their own in a similar move with Michael Santos setting up Rubén García but the midfielder could not take the ball in stride and dragged his shot wide.
Mata showed why he leads the scoring charts with a superb opener on 23 minutes. He took a short pass from Míchel Herrero and feinted inside the box, taking his opportunity as defenders backed off him to curl a sumptuous effort past Mariño to give his side an almost unassailable lead.
This body blow seemed to rock the Sporting players and they found themselves 2-0 down just eight minutes later. Mata popped up on the right flank and, despite calls for offside, squared a ball across the field to Óscar Plano who unleashed a rocket from outside the box that seemed to swerve in mid-air and out-foxed Mariño. This put Sergio González’s side firmly in charge with a 5-1 overall lead as the teams went in at halftime.
Midway through the second half, Sporting were awarded a penalty. A clumsy challenge by Toni Villa on Santos allowed Carlos Carmona the chance to reduce the arrears. He confidently sent Jordi Masip the wrong way and buried his spot kick inside the left post, but this was as close as the hosts got and they meagrely bowed out of the playoff race in front of their own fans.
Numancia will now host Real Valladolid at Los Pajaritos on Wednesday night, with the return fixture at the José Zorrilla on Saturday. Both matches kick off at 7.30pm UK time. The winner of this two-legged tie will ascend to La Liga and join compatriots Huesca and Rayo Vallecano in playing top-tier football next season. Stay tuned to La Liga News UK for a full preview and match reports of this crucial clash.