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May 13, 2006

La Liga: Espanyol escape relegation, Sevilla beat Barca

MADRID, May 13 (Reuters) - King's Cup winners Espanyol escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth on Saturday after a dramatic stoppage time goal from midfielder Ferran Corominas earned them a 1-0 win at home to Real Sociedad.

Fellow strugglers Alaves looked as if they were the team that would avoid the drop after they took a 1-0 lead against Deportivo Coruna, but Corominas's late strike destroyed their hopes of survival and sent the Basque team down.

Espanyol coach Miguel Angel Lotina, who was in tears after his side's heart-stopping victory, confirmed that he would be leaving at the end of the season in his post-match news conference.

Alaves, who are owned by outspoken entrepreneur Dimitry Piterman, will join Malaga and Cadiz in the second division next season.

UEFA Cup winners Sevilla continued a week of celebrations and boosted their hopes of earning a place in the Champions League when they beat a second string Barcelona 3-2.

Barca, resting eight first choice players for Wednesday's Champions League final against Arsenal, fought back from two goals down to level at 2-2, but a late strike from Sevilla striker Kepa earned the home side a vital win.

The victory put the Andalucians into fifth place in the table, level on 65 points with Osasuna. Valencia are in third on 69 points and Real Madrid are second on 70, 12 behind champions Barcelona who play their final game against Athletic Bilbao next Friday.

Osasuna host third-placed Valencia and Sevilla entertain second-placed Real Madrid on Tuesday with the runners-up spot and the final Champions League berth still at stake.

Villarreal, who lost to Arsenal in the semi-final of the Champions League, beat Racing Santander 2-0 at home to guarantee themselves a seventh-place finish and a berth in the Intertoto Cup.

GENEROUS MOOD

Champions Barca were in generous mood at the Sanchez Pizjuan as they clapped the UEFA Cup winners on to the pitch after their 4-0 win over Middlesbrough, while Sevilla picked up where they had left off in Eindhoven.

The Andalucians stormed into a 2-0 lead inside the first 25 minutes, midfielder Daniel Alves sending a 30-metre drive dipping past keeper Albert Jorquera and centre-back Aitor Ocio scoring from the penalty spot two minutes later after Antonio Puerta went down in the area.

But Barca wiped out their lead in the space of a little over a minute just before the break.

Midfielder Santi Ezquerro headed at the near post after right back Juliano Belletti had dinked a cross into the area and Silvinho made it 2-2 almost straight from the restart, catching keeper Andres Palop off guard when he whipped the ball into the net from wide on the left.

A hyper-motivated Sevilla stepped up the pressure after the break and won the game when striker Kepa scored with a marvellous diving header after a corner 14 minutes from time to spark yet another night of celebrations in the Andalucian capital.

There was even greater emotion at Montjuic where Espanyol fans had their nerves stretched to breaking point watching their team make their breath-taking escape from relegation.

With all hope apparently lost, midfielder Corominas collected the ball outside the area, teased his way past a defender and tucked a low shot beyond the reach of Sociedad keeper Alberto.

The goal meant that Alaves's victory at home to Depor was ultimately to no avail and when the news of Espanyol's victory filtered through there were angry protests against club president Piterman.

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