After seeing his low penalty shot go just wide of the left post, Granada striker Jorge Molina raised his hands to cover his face in despair.
He knew it was a big miss. And it proved to be very costly.
Molina missed from the spot in the 72nd minute and Granada was relegated from LaLiga on Sunday after a 0-0 draw at home against Espanyol, allowing Cádiz to take advantage and stay in the first division.
A win would have been enough for Granada regardless of other results, but the setback opened the door for Cádiz after it defeated Alavés 1-0 with a goal from Honduran Anthony “Choco” Lozano a few minutes after the missed penalty by Molina to stay in the top flight.
“It's a tough blow for the locker room,” Granada coach Aitor Karanka said. “Specially when we were so close. To go down like this is unfair.”
Cádiz, Granada and Mallorca entered the last round fighting to avoid demotion, with Cádiz sitting inside the relegation zone before the matches started. Levante and Alavés had already been relegated.
Mallorca secured its place in the top tier after a 2-0 win at midtable Osasuna, with Ángel Luis Rodriguez and Clément Grenier scoring second-half goals.
Mallorca and Cádiz ended with 39 points, one more than Granada.
“It wasn't by much, but I'm happy with how things turned out for us today," Cádiz coach Sergio González said.
The 40-year-old Molina was emotional after the match as players and coaches from both teams came to console him.
Granada had a few late chances after he missed the penalty, but could not capitalize on them. It will be playing in the second division for the third time in 12 seasons. The southern Spanish club had been in the top tier since 2011-12, with the exception of consecutive stints in the second division from 2017-19.
Granada finished seventh in the league in 2019-20 and was a quarterfinalist in the Europa League in 2020-21. It was ninth in the Spanish league last season.
Cádiz, also based in southern Spain, will play in the top flight for a third consecutive season after 14 years in the lower divisions.
Cádiz's fans were still celebrating Granada's missed penalty when Lozano found the net from close range in the 76th for the goal that proved to be enough to stay up.
“We suffered a lot, it wasn't easy,” Lozano said. “What we achieved is special.”
There was a late scare when the referee went to check a possible penalty kick for Alavés a few minutes from the end, but video review determined that the handball by a Cádiz defender was involuntary.
Mallorca was promoted this season after a year in the first division. Before that, it had been in the lower tiers for six consecutive seasons. Levante had played five straight seasons in the first division, while Alavés was in the top flight for six years in a row.
In a match with both teams safe from relegation, Elche beat Getafe 3-1 with Kike Pérez scoring twice for the hosts.
Real Madrid, which had already clinched a record-extending 35th league title, finished its league campaign with a 0-0 home draw against Real Betis on Friday in its final game before facing Liverpool in the Champions League final on Saturday in Paris.
Real Madrid ended 13 points in front of second-place Barcelona, which finished its season with a 2-0 loss to Villarreal at the Camp Nou Stadium. Atlético Madrid ended in third place, two points behind the Catalan club, after a 2-1 win at sixth-place Real Sociedad. Fourth-place Sevilla was one point behind Atlético after defeating Athletic Bilbao 1-0 at home.
Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético and Sevilla will play in the Champions League next season, while Betis and Sociedad will participate in the Europa League.
EUROPA CONFERENCE LEAGUE
Goals from Alfonso Pedraza and Moi Gomez earned Villarreal a 2-0 win at Barcelona on Sunday to secure a spot in the Europa Conference League after finishing seventh in LaLiga.
After reaching the Champions League semi-finals this season, knocking out former champions Juventus and Bayern Munich on the way, Unai Emery's side entered the final week of the season in danger of missing out on European competition completely.
With the top six already determined, Villarreal started the day in seventh, one point ahead of Athletic Bilbao who were playing at fourth-placed Sevilla at the same time on Sunday.
It needed to win at Camp Nou to guarantee qualification against a second-placed Barca side who had nothing left to play for and put up little fight.
Pedraza scored the opener in the 40th minute with a precise shot after receiving a fine through ball from Dani Parejo and Moi Gomez sealed the win in the 54th, striking powerfully home from close range after Adama Traore made a mistake while trying to clear the ball from his own area.
(With inputs from Reuters)