Villarreal fights back for 3-2 win at Almeria

FILE - In this March 5, 2013 file photo, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning of a spring training baseball game in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Indians have released Matsuzaka. He is now a free agent. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

By Joseph Wilson ,AP

BARCELONA — Giovani Dos Santos scored the equalizer and set up the late winner in a four-minute span to lead Villarreal’s 3-2 comeback victory at Almeria on Monday, ensuring the club’s successful return to Spain’s first division.

Promoted Almeria outplayed Villarreal in front of its fans at Juegos Mediterraneos Stadium in the first half, with striker Rodrigo Rios scoring in the 39th minute from a pass from Rafael Ramos.

Villarreal leveled in the 65th through Sebastian Dubarbier’s own goal, but Rios restored the hosts’ lead when he controlled Jesus “Suso” Fernandez’s cross and fired home to record a double in the 74th.

Almeria appeared set to collect the three points until the 83rd, when Javier Aquino passed for fellow Mexico international Dos Santos to tap in and make it 2-2.

Dos Santos created the winner three minutes later by dribbling down the right side, cutting back, and passing between two defenders for Jonathan Pereira to send the ball bouncing into the corner of the net.

“I’m pleased because we knew how to take away three very important points, but we must also improve our overall level of play,” Villarreal manager Marcelino Garcia said. “This victory must give us confidence and show us where we are strong and where we are weak. We are tremendously satisfied to have won away from home, which wasn’t at all easy.”

Elsewhere, in the last games of the opening round, Alberto Bueno scored two goals as Rayo Vallecano spoiled Elche’s first game in Spain’s topflight in 24 years, and Espanyol came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo.

Rayo acquired Bueno from Valladolid earlier this month, and the attacking midfielder did his best to help the Madrid-based team forget the several first-choice players it sold this offseason to reduce debt.

Bueno shone early with his passing at Vallecas Stadium and scored when Saul Niguez found him running clear down the center of the area to fire the ball into the net in the 40th.

Alberto Perea went on for the injured Jose Carlos Fernandez and doubled the lead with a long-range strike in the 44th, before Bueno also struck from outside the area in the 74th.