Elche wins playoff to return to La Liga after long saga

Elche was promoted to La Liga by beating 10-man Girona 1-0 away thanks to a goal deep in stoppage time from Pere Milla.

File picture: Elche has been promoted to La Liga after beating 10-man Girona.   -  Getty Images

Elche was promoted to La Liga by beating 10-man Girona 1-0 away thanks to a goal deep in stoppage time from Pere Milla in the Segunda Division playoff final, return leg on Sunday after the first leg had ended goalless.

Milla's header, which came after Girona's talismanic striker Cristhian Stuani was sent off in the 61st minute for a rash challenge, was the final twist of an enthralling and surreal season finale in Spain's second-tier.

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Elche had only sneaked into the playoff positions on the last day of the season, finishing sixth as nearest challenger Fuenlabrada had its match with Deportivo La Coruna called off due to several players testing positive for COVID-19.

After a series of disputes between clubs and the league's organising bodies, that game was rescheduled over two weeks later, with Fuenlabrada needing just a point against already-relegated Deportivo to finish sixth at Elche's expense.

But Fuenlabrada conceded a last-gasp penalty and lost 2-1, allowing Elche a shot at returning to the top flight five years after it was relegated due to financial irregularities.

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It survived having a player sent off after half an hour in its semifinal first leg with Real Zaragoza to draw 0-0, reaching the final by winning the second leg away from home 1-0 thanks to a late strike from 40-year-old striker Nino.

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