Oh, how the once-mighty have fallen. The old Villarreal, of UEFA Champions League Semifinal fame--long since divided and sent to different parts of the world--will have to spend the next season fighting to get back to Primera, as they lost to Atletico Madrid 0-1 while watching Rayo Vallecano score in the last second to inch ahead of them in the standings. Villarreal, world-beloved for their flowing, exciting style, will not be in Primera to awe us with their yellow shirts and brilliant goals; and the beneficiaries of their collapse, Rayo Vallecano and Real Zaragoza, live to fight another day. Sporting Gijón, who had been fighting a losing battle against relegation--and needed a miracle--could not salvage themselves, and also fell to Segunda.
The day began well for Villarreal: they were sitting two teams above the drop zone, and would only descend with a very particular confluence of circumstances--Rayo and Zaragoza would both have to win, and they would have to lose. Unfortunately, this nightmarish scenario played out before their eyes.
First, Zaragoza grabbed a lead on Getafe after a penalty/red card combo saw the azulón squad reduced in number. But it was OK: Rayo was sputtering in what appeared to be a 0-0 draw with Granada (another side on the bubble). It looked like the Vallecanos were going to suffer the ultimate fate.
But then, like a terrible lightning bolt from the soccer gods, Radamel Falcao scored for Atlético, and, minutes later, Raúl Tamudo (architect of one of the other greatest moments in Liga history), scored for Rayo Vallecano. Suddenly, Villarreal's nightmare was very real.
On further review, it looked like Tamudo's goal, in stoppage time, may have been offsides. But that will be of little consolation to what I am sure is a desolate Villarreal fan base. They are a team I believed in all year, and they are a team I will continue to believe in next year when they fight to get back to their rightful position in Primera--this is not the last that we have seen of the Yellow Submarine.