Wed, Mar 26, 2014 - Page 20 News List

Almeria dent Sociedad’s Champions League hopes


UD Almeria midfielder Verza, left, vies with Real Sociedad midfielder Sergio Canales in their La Liga match at the Juegos Mediterraneos in Almeria, Spain, on Monday.

Photo: AFP

UD Almeria’s stoppage-time winner secured a wild 4-3 victory over Real Sociedad to dampen the visitors’ hopes of qualifying for next season’s UEFA Champions League.

Hicham Khaloua’s late goal improved Almeria’s chances of avoiding relegation in a match dominated by contentious refereeing calls, including three penalties.

A day after Barcelona’s 4-3 win at Real Madrid featured three penalties, the referee again dominated a wide-open game that saw Almeria ultimately move out of the relegation zone and one point ahead of Getafe, who took their place.

Angel Trujillo handled inside the penalty area to set up Carlos Vela’s penalty which was subsequently canceled out by Oscar Diaz, before Real went ahead again in the 58th minute through Imanol Agirretxe’s sublime lob over goalkeeper Esteban Suarez.

Jose Antonio Garcia converted a pair of disputed penalties inside five minutes after Sociedad defenders Carlos Martinez and Mikel Gonzalez were perhaps harshly booked for separate fouls that led to Almeria getting ahead again after 71 minutes.

Markel Bergara headed home an equalizer in the 85th minute for Sociedad, who slipped nine points behind fourth-placed Athletic Bilbao in La Liga when fullback Alberto de la Bella’s clearance came straight off Khaloua into the net.

“We’re not eyeing fourth place as our objective,” Sociedad coach Jagoba Arrasate said. “If you score three goals away from home you should win, but we weren’t strong enough when we had to be and we defended poorly, especially on the last goal.”

After 29 rounds, Atletico Madrid lead the league with 70 points — the same as Real Madrid, but they hold a head-to-head advantage over their crosstown rivals. Barcelona trail the pair by one point.

The 30th round of the matched kicked off yesterday with Malaga playing RCD Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao at Elche.

Fourth-placed Athletic, who hold the final Champions League qualifying place, are eight points better off than Sevilla, who are one point ahead of Sociedad.

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