A year after it found itself relegated from the top flight of Spanish soccer, Villarreal bounced straight back to Primera on Saturday.
The Yellow Submarine secured second behind Segunda champions Elche with a 1-0 win over Almería at El Madrigal. Jonathan Pereira's 54th minute strike proved enough to dispatch the third-place Andalusian team, which had gone into the match level on points with the Castellón side.
Club president Fernando Roig can take much of the credit for enabling the 2006 Champions League semifinalist to climb back out of the hole it had dug for itself. Two days after his team was relegated last year, he decided to sell his 2.5-percent stake in supermarket chain Mercadona, valued at around 71 million euros, and use the funds to clean up the club's accounts and remodel the team.
However, the search for a coach began tragically when former Sporting Gijón boss Manolo Preciado died of a heart attack as he was about to be presented as the chosen candidate. Youngster Julio Velázquez stepped into the vacant position, but with Villarreal languishing mid-table at the halfway stage he was replaced by Marcelino García Toral whose alterations have now catapulted the team back into the top tier.
Almería now heads into the playoffs where it faces Las Palmas, while Girona plays Alcorcón in the other tie. Both first matches are due to be played on Wednesday with the second legs on Saturday. The winners will then battle it out for the final promotion spot.
At the other end of the second tier, Murcia provisionally avoided the drop to Segunda B with a 1-0 win over Las Palmas. Last week the Professional Football League (LFP) announced that Guadalajara would be relegated due to irregularities in the process of capital increase carried out by the club last year. Thus Murcia, Racing Santander and Huesca all had an unexpected final chance to save their skins on the final weekend.
Guadalajara has said it will contest the LFP's decision.