Real Madrid put a fittingly poor ending to its worst season in recent memory after losing its last match of the Spanish league on Sunday.
Many of the frustrated fans at the Santiago Bernabeu jeered Madrid’s players after the 2-0 loss to Real Betis. Most of Madrid’s supporters have long placed their hopes on what changes the club will make to an underperforming squad in the summer.
Not even coach Zinedine Zidane could find a saving grace to the campaign.
“It isn’t that we don’t want to (play better); we aren’t able to,” Zidane said. “The best thing is for this to be over. We are already thinking about the future and next season.”
Madrid entered the match with nothing to play for, locked into a third-place finish for the second consecutive season.
Madrid was out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey in early March and without a realistic chance of stopping Barcelona from successfully defending its La Liga title.
Since the return of Zidane to take charge of the club after its shock loss to Ajax in the round-of-16 in the Champions League, the team has finished the campaign with a record of 5 wins, two draws and four losses.
“The fault is ours,” Madrid defender Marcelo said. “We didn’t start well and we didn’t finish it well either. In no way was this the season we wanted to have.”
Betis outplayed the hosts from the start and got second-half goals from Loren Moron and former Madrid forward Jese Rodriguez.
Giovani Lo Celso led Betis to victory with his creativity. The Argentine midfielder created all of his team’s best chances, drawing a save from goalkeeper Keylor Navas before setting up both goals.
A long ball by Lo Celso set Andres Guardado free down the left as he sprinted clear of Raphael Varane before crossing for Moron to score.
Lo Celso then slipped a ball through to Junior Firpo, who found Jese unmarked at the edge of the six-yard box.
Betis finished the season in 10th place amid speculation that coach Quique Setien will not continue next season despite beating both Madrid and Barcelona at their stadiums.
“This allows us to finish a season that has been a bit disappointing with a victory against a team and at a stadium that will always be a nice memory,” said Setien, who added that he has “the strength to stay on” next season.
Valencia grabs final Champions League spot in Spain
Valencia secured its return to the Champions League by beating Valladolid 2-0 in the final round of the Spanish league on Saturday.
Carlos Soler and Rodrigo scored in each half to guarantee Valencia the fourth and final spot for the European competition next season.
Espanyol ended with the final Europa League spot after jumping from ninth to seventh in the standings after beating Real Sociedad 2-0. Espanyol fans stormed the field at RCDE Stadium to celebrate the club’s return to Europe after more than a decade. The team’s second goal was by Chinese forward Wu Lei.
Girona became the third team to be relegated, joining Rayo Vallecano and Huesca in the second division.
Valencia grabbed fourth place for the first time last weekend after recovering from a dismal start to the season. It won one of its first 11 league matches before gradually recovering to finish with the coveted Champions League berth for a second straight year. It was eliminated in the group stage this season.
Valencia finishes the season next weekend in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona.
“We didn’t start well but we were able to recover thanks to a lot of hard work and a lot of sacrifice,” Valencia midfielder Dani Parejo said. “We achieved our goal today and now we will try to reach another one in next weekend’s final.”
Valladolid, owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, had pride to play for in the final round having already secured a place in the first division last weekend. It was promoted to the top flight this season for the first time since 2014.
Modest Getafe was one of the league sensations and had been holding on to fourth place for nearly the entire second half of the season. It needed to beat Villarreal to have a chance of overcoming Valencia but it only drew 2-2 in its home finale.
Sixth-placed Sevilla was the only other team with a chance of finishing with the final Champions League spot but beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at home wasn’t enough.
The loss in Seville cost Athletic Bilbao the final Europa League spot, which ended with Espanyol. Espanyol, which hadn’t been higher than ninth in the standings for the entire second half of the season, ended tied on points with Athletic but had the better head-to-head tiebreaker.
Espanyol’s last appearance in a European competition was in the 2006-07 UEFA Cup.
Sociedad would have grabbed the final Europa League spot with a win at Espanyol.
Girona lost at Alaves 2-1 to end its chances of staying in the top flight. Girona was in its second season in the first division.
Huesca also had already been relegated in its first season in the first division. It defeated Leganes 2-1 in a match in which substitute defender Martin Mantovani scored all the goals: He found his own net in the first half but scored twice for the hosts in the second.
Celta Vigo survived despite a 2-2 home draw against already relegated Rayo Vallecano.
Atletico Madrid, runner-up for a second straight year, ended its season drawing at Levante 2-2 in what was the last match with the club for Antoine Griezmann, Diego Godin, and Juanfran Torres.
On Sunday, champion Barcelona visits Eibar and third-placed Real Madrid hosts Real Betis.