It's all over! Barcelona made sure of their second league title in a row after a comfortable 4-0 win over Valladolid on Sunday night kept them three points ahead of Real Madrid. Although the hard work was done in Sevilla a week ago this was not a foregone conclusion, with Javier Clemente's side fighting for their own first division survival. And for the first quarter of an hour the visitors more than held their own, Manucho almost scoring after a mix-up in the defence. With just under half an hour gone though Luis Prieto turned Pedro's cross in to his own net, and four minutes later Pedro ran on to Messi's through ball and fired a shot under Jacobo for his team's second. From then on there was no doubt, and a good run by Touré Yaya after the break ended with Messi slotting the ball in to an empty net. Messi got his second of the night a few minutes later, again after an assist by Touré Yaya, and after that Guardiola allowed Henry, Ibrahimovic and Iniesta a run out, the first two presumably to take their leave of the fans and the third to give him a bit of match practice prior after a long injury. Celebrations all round, and a record number of 99 points to add to their ever growing credentials.
As it happens even a defeat would have given Barça the title after Real Madrid could only draw 1-1 at Málaga, although knowing the result from the Nou Camp Pellegrini's side can be forgiven for not giving it 100%. Málaga themselves were also struggling to avoid relegation, and Duda delighted the local fans when he picked up a back-heel pass from Caicedo to open the scoring in the ninth minute. Munúa was called upon after that to keep out a Cristiano Ronaldo header and a Van der Vaart free kick, but Madrid were lucky to be let off the hook when the referee failed to spot a push by Sergio Ramos on Caicedo soon after the restart. A couple of minutes later Van der Vaart equalised with a quick shot on the turn after picking up a pass from Marcelo, but with Munúa on top form that was the best they could do. Málaga were safe, and Madrid ended the season empty-handed despite a record 96 points. Three points short though, and Pellegrini could pay for that with his job.
Racing Santander also live to fight another day after a 2-0 victory against Sporting Gijón. Of the five sides in the struggle to avoid the drop, the Cantabrians had the easiest task against friendly neighbours who were already sure of staying up, and the outcome was no surprise. Visiting keeper Juan Pablo had to make a couple of early saves before he was finally beaten when Tchité headed in a wide Canales free kick, a goal which even the away fans applauded. Bolado brought another good save out of Juan Pablo early in the second half, and soon afterwards Tchité made it two, taking over the ball and flicking it in to the net after Bolado pulled down a long cross from Canales. Toño was finally tested by Lola late on, but by then the fans were celebrating, even though some sections of the crowd were still calling for a change of management. They don't want to suffer like this next year.
All of that meant that Tenerife and Xerez will join Valladolid in the second division next season. Tenerife had a tricky away tie at Valencia, although their job was made a bit easier by Unai Emery making several changes to a side which had already made sure of third spot some time ago. However in the end they lost 1-0 thanks to header by ex-Málaga defender Alexis in the first minute of stoppage time. Up to that point though the locals had dominated play, Baraja almost scoring in his last match for his club with an early free kick against the foot of the post. Visiting keeper Aragoneses kept his side in the match with a string of saves from Chori Domínguez, Zigic and Baraja, and Culebras almost gave the Canary Islanders the lead with a header which Moyà did well to keep out. With Málaga drawing as well though they still needed to score themselves or hope that Real Madrid did so at the Rosaleda, but when Alexis headed in Chori Domínguez's corner they knew the game was up.
Xerez's brave attempt to stay up ended after they could only draw 1-1 at Osasuna, although as things panned out even a win would not have been enough. A magnificent effort though, and with only eight points to their name at the midpoint of the season nobody could have imagined them coming in to the last day with a chance of survival. For a few minutes they held on to the dream, Roberto having to make a couple of first class saves from Víctor Sánchez and Mario Bermejo, and Orellana shooting just wide. But a few minutes after the interval Dady picked up Calleja's pass to put the locals ahead, and although Antoñito equalised a few minutes later with a shot which span out of Roberto's hands in to the net, results elsewhere meant their chances were slimmer than ever. A frustrated Orellana got himself sent off in the final minute after kicking out at Esparza, and the dejected players left the pitch knowing they had given it their best shot. (16.05.10)
If tomorrow night's finale is anything like today's curtain raisers, we are in for a treat. The matches on Saturday evening were for the remaining European spots, and Sevilla will take the fourth Champions League place after a last gasp 2-3 win at Almería. Although they had nothing to play for, Lillo's side were not prepared to give an inch against their regional rivals, and they went close a couple of times before Kanouté got on the end of a Jesús Navas cross to put the visitors ahead. Soriano equalised though on the stroke of half time with an impressive volley, and although Negredo bundled the ball in with help from Esteban and Chico to restore the lead soon after the restart, the striker blotted his copy-book when he was sent off for insulting a linesman a few minutes later. With some ten minutes to go Juanma Ortíz levelled the scores again, and with Mallorca winning against Espanyol, it looked as if Sevilla were down and out. But with the game in the fourth minute of injury time young substitute Rodri scored an acrobatic winner to send the visiting fans wild. Sevilla can go in to Wednesday's final knowing that their first objective has been achieved.
Disappointment at Mallorca, where a 2-0 victory over Espanyol was not enough to give them the Champions League spot that they so wanted. Gregorio Manzano's side had won fourteen of their home games this season, and they started well against an opponent that already made sure of another season in the top flight. Víctor had a penalty appeal turned down early on, and midway through the first half the striker opened the scoring with a first time shot after Chori Castro crossed in from the left wing. Borja Valero and Víctor both went close after that, and although Ben Sahar tested Aouate at the other end soon after the restart, Mario Suárez made sure of the win with a well struck volley from Valero's corner later on. Their game finished before the match in Almería, and the excited players and fans watched the outcome on the ground's big screens. But everything ended with Rodri's goal, and they must now wait for UEFA's judgement on the club's delicate financial position to know whether they will be allowed in to the Europa League next season.
Assuming they will be allowed in to the Europa League next season, Mallorca will be joined by Getafe after Michel's side won 0-3 at city neighbours Atlético Madrid. The locals paraded out the Europa League cup before kick off, but with another final looming in four days' time Quique Sánchez Flores put out a line up packed with reserves and youngsters. And a quarter of an hour later Soldado ran on to Adrián González's return pass to give the visitors the lead. Ibrahima tested Codina a couple of times before the break, but soon after the restart Adrián headed against the post, and a few minutes later Soldado got his second of the night after Pedro León set him up. With the game coming to a close Dani Parejo added a third, and after a two year break Geta will be returning to Europe. Atlético will be there too though, Sevilla's victory later in the evening confirming that they will occupy the third Europa League spot whatever the outcome of Wednesday's final.
That meant that, unless Mallorca are banned, Villarreal will not be playing in Europe this season. Juan Carlos Garrido's side put in a valiant performance to comer back from three goals down to draw 3-3 at Zaragoza, but they end the season two points behind Getafe in the table. With only three minutes on the clock the home side took the lead, Eliseu beating Diego López with a shot from outside of the area following a set-piece free kick. Colunga raced past Godín to score a second on the half hour mark, and when Pulido poked home a third after Jarosik headed back Colunga's cross it appeared to be all over. Cazorla struck back though with two goals either side of half time, and Rossi saved a point in the end after running on to Cazorla's through ball to shoot under Roberto. A good end to the season after a disappointing start, but not quite good enough.
Earlier in the evening Athletic Bilbao put an end to a good season with a 2-0 victory over Deportivo, a result which consolidated them in eighth spot. The fact that there were no bookings summed up the game, with Armando, Muñoz and Etxeberría given a place in Caparrós's starting line up to enable them to say goodbye to their fans. The future at Athletic is in the hands of others though, and it was their promising youngster Muniain who scored the opening goal with an impressive shot from left of goal. Lassad brought a good save out of Armando and Etxeberría shot just wide, and Llorente hit the bar early in the second half. And Javi Martínez wrapped things up with a second goal to celebrate his first call up to the Spanish squad. A night for festivities, with referee Mejuto González joining in the atmosphere in his last league game before officiating the cup final prior to his own retirement. (15.05.10)