Giovani Dos Santos scored the equalizer and set up the late winner in a four-minute span to lead Villarreal’s 3-2 comeback victory at UD Almeria on Monday, ensuring the club’s successful return to Spain’s first division.
Promoted Almeria outplayed Villarreal in front of their fans at the Estadio Juegos Mediterraneos in the first half, with striker Rodrigo Rios scoring in the 39th minute from a pass from Rafael Ramos.
Villarreal leveled in the 65th through Sebastian Dubarbier’s own goal, but Rios restored the hosts’ lead when he controlled Jesus “Suso” Fernandez’s cross and fired home to record a double in the 74th.
Almeria appeared set to collect the three points until the 83rd, when Javier Aquino passed for fellow Mexico international Dos Santos to tap in and make it 2-2.
Dos Santos created the winner three minutes later by dribbling down the right side, cutting back and passing between two defenders for Jonathan Pereira to send the ball bouncing into the corner of the net.
“I’m pleased because we knew how to take away three very important points, but we must also improve our overall level of play,” Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia said.
“This victory must give us confidence and show us where we are strong and where we are weak. We are tremendously satisfied to have won away from home, which wasn’t at all easy,” he added.
Elsewhere, in the last games of the opening round, Alberto Bueno scored two goals as Rayo Vallecano de Madrid spoiled Elche’s first game in Spain’s top flight in 24 years and RCD Espanyol came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at RC Celta de Vigo.
Rayo acquired Bueno from Real Valladolid earlier this month and the attacking midfielder did his best to help the Madrid-based team forget the several first-choice players they sold this offseason to reduce debt.
Bueno shone early with his passing at Campo de Futbold de Vallecas and scored when Saul Niguez found him running clear down the center of the area to fire the ball into the net in the 40th.
Alberto Perea went on for the injured Jose Carlos Fernandez and doubled the lead with a long-range strike in the 44th, before Bueno also struck from outside the area in the 74th.
Rayo manager Paco Jemez applauded the contributions, especially those of his new players, including Saul, who arrived on loan from Atletico Madrid in the offseason.
“The dynamic of the way we work at Rayo makes it so all the new people adapt quickly to the mechanisms of our team,” Jemez said. “We need another signing. We are not lacking quality, but we are short on quantity.”
Espanyol rallied after Denmark midfielder Michael Krohn-Dehli assisted on two goals to give Celta a commanding advantage.
Krohn-Dehli brightened an infringement-filled first half in the 42nd by using an audacious flip to scoop the ball over a defender and leave Alex Lopez alone to beat goalkeeper Kiko Casilla.
Celta went up 2-0 seconds after halftime when Krohn-Dehli picked out unmarked striker Charles in the area to head his lobbed pass down into the corner of the net.
However, Espanyol midfielder Victor Sanchez halved the difference in the 53rd with a curled strike from long range, as Javi Lopez met substitute Thievy Bifouma’s run with a long pass for the forward to size up the ’keeper and drive in the 75th-minute equalizer.
“The result is fair,” said new Celta manager Luis Enrique, formerly of AS Roma. “Our opponent also did things to get this result. Their first goal arrived when we were playing our best.”
Casilla still had to make an acrobatic save to tip Gustavo Cabral’s header over the bar to protect the point for Javier Aguirre’s side.
“I fully trust in Kiko,” Aguirre said about his goalkeeper. “It was an extraordinary save. I think he can keep growing and carve his name in Spanish football.”