European roundup: Fans storm pitch after Auxerre win promotion playoff

Auxerre returned to Ligue 1 after 10 years away, winning a playoff with St Étienne that ended in rancorous, violent scenes when fans of the relegated team stormed the field.

After a draw in the first leg, Auxerre won on penalties at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium before a cauldron-like atmosphere gave way to chaos. Following a goalless first half, Hamza Sakhi opened the scoring for Auxerre with a header.

Madhi Camara levelled for St Étienne following a corner taken by Enzo Crivelli. Physically fresher, the Greens were the better team at the end of the 90 minutes and in extra time but eventually fell foul of spot-kicks.

On penalties, Ryad Boudebouz, the first St Étienne taker saw his effort saved by Donovan Leon while the Auxerrois were perfect with all their kicks. Birama Touré, the Auxerre captain, scored the winning penalty, and that immediately set off an invasion of the pitch by furious supporters. Smoke bombs, firecrackers and fireworks were thrown and players quickly had to be escorted to the dressing room, making their escape as fans piled on to the pitch. Flares were also launched down the tunnel as smoke filled the air.

RMC Sport reported that teargas was also thrown and that journalists and cameramen were struggling to deal with the smoke bombs let off. St Étienne were relegated alongside Bordeaux and Metz to Ligue 2, ending a run of 18 seasons in the top flight.

Former Brazil striker Ronaldo celebrated Valladolid’s return to the Primera División. The team owned by the Brazil great secured a spot in the top flight after beating Huesca 3-0 at home and Eibar lost 1-0 at Alcorcón.

Almería, bought by the Saudi Arabian Turki al-Sheikh in 2019, finished top after drawing 2-2 at Leganés and will return to the top tier for the first time since the 2014-2015 season. Eibar still have a chance to be promoted, but will have to fight for the final spot in the playoffs.

Las Palmas, finishing in fourth place after winning 1-0 at Sporting Gijon, also made it to the playoffs. Fifth-place Tenerife and sixth-place Girona had already guaranteed their spots in the playoffs.

Ronaldo, a two-time World Cup winner and a former Real Madrid and Barcelona striker, bought a 51% stake in 2018 when Valladolid were still in the first division. “It was a complicated season, with a pandemic and all,” he said. “This is incredible. We worked hard and we fought, and even though we suffered until the last minute, we achieved the goal of returning to the first division.”

Silvio Berlusconi is a Serie A owner again after his Monza club won the Serie B playoff on Sunday to reach the top division. Monza beat Pisa 4-3 in extra time for a 6-4 aggregate victory, the first time Monza, located near Milan, have reached the top flight in their 110-year history.

The 85-year-old Berlusconi bought Monza in 2018 and installed Adriano Galliani as CEO, reprising the same duo that found success at Milan until Berlusconi sold the Rossoneri in 2017. Serie B champion Lecce and second-place Cremonese had already won automatic promotion.


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