TOP FLIGHT La Liga football will return to the Costa Blanca next month after Elche booked a place in the Primera Division five years after they were relegated for financial irregularities.

A goal last night(August 23) six minutes into injury time from Pere Milla at Girona secured promotion for the Ilicitanos after the first leg ended up nil-nil.

It’s been an extraordinary couple of months for a side that fought hard to keep sixth place in the Segunda Division table to earn the final play-off spot.

That placing appeared to be in severe danger as their nearest rivals Fuenlabrada had their final league clash postponed due to their players getting the coronavirus.

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Elche celebrate at Girona

Their match at Deportivo was controversially played some weeks later, with Deportivo already relegated and Fuenlabrada knowing that just a draw would be good enough to edge out Elche.

In a shock, Deportivo came from behind to get a late injury time winner to give the Ilicitanos a surprising helping hand.

Added time was to continue to play a major part in the rest of Elche´s season.

Elche’s semi-final ties against Real Zaragoza were only settled with an injury time goal from veteran Nino in the second leg at Zaragoza.

Then came last night’s late Milla header(96 mins) at Girona which was the only scoring chance that Elche produced during the tie, as a solid defensive display frustrated the home side.

It’s a remarkable return to the top flight as Elche seemed to be in terminal decline after they were demoted from the Primera Divison in 2015 and then they were relegated to Spain’s third tier two years later.

Elche’s coach Pacheta started his tenure at the club in February 2018, and secured promotion for the club back into the Segunda within 15 months.

His achievement in just over two seasons is all the more remarkable because of severe financial curbs at the club who had to sell two of their top players last winter.

El Elche de Pacheta, de Primera
Successive promotions for Elche coach Pacheta

That came in the wake of Argentinian football agent, Christian Bargarnik, buying Elche from the controversial figure, Jose Sepulcre.

The first-team squad is just 21-strong and there was great unhappiness amongst the players in June as they refused to resume full training over payment issues.

Two months later they have Primera action to look forward to and hosting the likes of champions Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The new campaign is scheduled to start on September 12 with the fixture list being released this week.

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