Real Sociedad’s hopes of returning to the Champions League next season took a hit on Monday after they fell 3-2 at home to relegation-threatened Rayo Vallecano de Madrid in La Liga.
The result saw Sociedad slip eight points behind fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao, who hold the final qualifying place for Europe’s top-tier event, and put Rayo tantalizingly close to salvation after Ruben Rochina smashed a rising shot while on the run into goal to score the 67th-minute winner.
Rayo are tied on 26 points with fellow relegation battlers UD Almeria and Real Valladolid, and eight points ahead of bottom club Real Betis Balompie, but the Madrid side sit second-from-bottom on goal-difference.
On Monday at the Estadio Anoeta, Sociedad held the lead twice, once in the opening instances through Inigo Martinez and then through Ruben Pardo after the restart, but on both occasions the visitors equalized within minutes — thanks to Joaquin Larrivey and Alberto Bueno respectively.
Despite Sociedad’s constant pressing over the final 15 minutes, the Basque club could not string together a decent effort on goal and Carlos Vela was guilty of wasting a clear opportunity at the close.
“This game has given us life, it could be a fundamental result,” Rayo coach Paco Jemez said.
Elsewhere, 10-man Malaga also enhanced their hopes of surviving the drop with a 2-0 win away to CA Osasuna, who are now just three points clear of relegation on 29.
Samuel Garcia Sanchez gave the visitors the lead a quarter of the way in before his side were reduced by one when Jesus Gamez was shown a second yellow card in the 52nd.
However, it made no difference, as Nordin Amrabat doubled the Andalucians’ lead in the 66th and Malaga hung on thanks to stellar goalkeeping by Willy Caballero.
Malaga joined Elche and Osasuna on 29 points with the victory.
Real Madrid lead the standings with 67 points, three more than nearest rivals Atletico Madrid, while Barcelona are third on 63 points and Athletic occupying fourth with 51.
Also on Monday, Getafe, who are one point away from the relegation zone on 27, fired coach Luis Garcia and replaced him with former player Cosmin Contra of Romania.
The Madrid side have not won in the league for 12 games since November last year, leaving them uncomfortably close to demotion in 15th place, and the final straw for the club’s board came on Saturday as they were beaten 2-0 away to basement dwellers Betis.
“It is a sad day. From the bottom of my heart I hope that Getafe continue for another year in La Liga as they are now,” Garcia told a press conference.
“In my 113 games in charge we have fulfilled our objectives apart from in the last 12. The first two years were good. In the Cup [Copa del Rey] we have eliminated bigger teams and there have been great moments like when we beat Real Madrid and Barcelona. This bad run has been the worst moment,” he said.
Getafe said the 38-year-old Contra, who played for the club between 2005 and 2010, will take charge for the final 11 games of the season and a further two seasons thereafter.
His only previous top-flight managerial experience has come in Romania with Petrolul Ploiesti.