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Las Palmas stun Zaragoza to claim final promotion spot

Las Palmas stun Zaragoza to claim final promotion spot
By Reuters

21/06/2015 at 21:13Updated 21/06/2015 at 22:06

Las Palmas forward Sergio Araujo struck a late volley to snatch a thrilling victory on away goals over Real Zaragoza in their play-off final on Sunday and secure a La Liga berth for next season after a 13-year absence.

Las Palmas, who have not had a sustained run in the top flight since the 1980s and were playing in the third tier of Spanish soccer less than a decade ago, looked down and out after they lost Wednesday's first leg at Zaragoza 3-1.

Backed by vociferous home support, the Canary Islands club set about trying to reduce the deficit with real intent in the return and Roque Mesa gave them a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute when he finished off a sweeping move with a fierce shot past Zaragoza goalkeeper Yassine Bounou.

Needing a single goal to make it 3-3 on aggregate and clinch victory, Las Palmas squandered a host of chances before Araujo popped up at the far post to volley home five minutes from time and spark wild celebrations.

It was a particularly sweet moment for veteran Las Palmas midfielder Juan Carlos Valeron, a former Spain international who turned 40 last week and was an unused substitute on Sunday.

The Zaragoza players were clearly distraught as their hopes of a return to La Liga after two seasons in the second division were cruelly ended.

Cup Winners' Cup champions in 1995, the club has been struggling with financial problems over the past decade and were almost relegated to the third tier in 2013-14.

Champions Real Betis and second-placed Sporting Gijon secured the automatic promotion places in the second division, with Girona, Las Palmas, Real Valladolid and Zaragoza claiming playoff berths in third through sixth respectively.

Cordoba, Almeria and Eibar were initially relegated from La Liga but Eibar were reinstated after Elche, who finished 13th, were expelled over unpaid taxes.

Elche said last week they had settled their debt to the tax agency planned to lodge an appeal next week with the government disciplinary committee for sports (TAD).