Barcelona are the new league champions! Exactly one year after Atlético Madrid won the league in the Nou Camp, Luis Enrique’s side repaid the favour with a 0-1 victory in the Calderón stadium which keeps them four points clear of second placed Real Madrid with one match to go. Atleti themselves needed points though to tie up third place, and Bravo had to be at his best to keep out a Giménez header following an early corner. After that however the visitors were on top throughout the first half, with Messi heading at Oblak and then firing a wide free kick against the bar, and the local keeper having to tip a long shot from Dani Alves over the bar. Luis Enrique’s side also felt they should have had a couple of penalties before the break, the first when the ball hit Juanfran on the arm, and the second a trip by Godín on Alves, referee Undiano Mallenco incorrectly giving a free kick outside of the area. The locals started strongly after the restart, Godín heading a corner over the top and Fernando Torres testing Bravo again, but once again they quickly ran out of steam, and midway through the second half Messi picked up Pedro’s return pass to score what was to prove the only goal of the match. Neymar missed a couple of chances after that and Messi brought another good stop out of Oblak with a late free kick, but Bravo and his defence held fast for yet another clean sheet, and Barça were champions for the 23 rd time in their history. It doesn’t end there though, and with the Spanish and Champions League cup finals to come Luis Enrique could emulate Guardiola with the triple in his first year in charge.
Real Madrid did the best they could though, a 1-4 win at Espanyol keeping their hopes alive until news of the final whistle at the Calderón stadium came through. With Ancelotti suspended, Hierro took charge of the side, but they made little inroad in the first half, the best chance a header by Cristiano Ronaldo into the side netting. Abraham tested Keylor Navas (given a run out instead of Iker Casillas) and Arbilla and Sergio García went close either side of half time, but with just under an hour gone Ronaldo picked up Benzema’s pass to fire the opener past Kiko Casilla. Only a last gasp tackle by Dani Carvajal prevented Víctor Sánchez from scoring at the other end however, and soon afterwards Navas dallied too long on a Pepe back pass, losing the ball to Stuani. Varane chased back to tackle the striker, but Sergio García picked up the rebound and passed across for Stuani to level the scores. Five minutes later though Madrid were back in front after Marcelo picked up Ronaldo’s return pass to beat Casilla, and only a great save by the local keeper prevented Bale from increasing the lead. Soon afterwards Ronaldo did make it three though after Chicharito managed to hook a pass across to him following a quick counter-attack, and with the game coming to a close Ronaldo completed yet another hat-trick with a far post header from a James cross. It was all in vain in the end though, and after losing to Juventus in their Champions League semi-final midweek, Madrid end the season without a trophy.
Atlético still need a point to tie up third spot after fourth placed Valencia drew 1-1 with Celta to move to within three points of Simeone's side in the table. The visitors themselves still have a chance of reaching the European spots, and with eight minutes gone they took the lead, Pablo Hernández looping the ball past Diego Alves probably off his shoulder from a Nolito corner. The Ches hardly troubled Sergio Alvarez until he had to save from Paco Alcácer shortly before the break, but after the restart the visiting keeper had to tip an Otamendi header onto the bar, and soon afterwards he kept out Alcácer once again. However with twenty minutes to go Alvarez spoilt what was up to then a good evening by spilling a long Dani Parejo free kick, allowing Otamendi to run in and fire home the equalizer. That set up a frenetic last few minutes, Alvarez saving again from De Paul and Krohn-Dehli going close, but in the end both teams settled for a point.
Sevilla could pip the Ches for fourth place though after they came from behind to beat Almería 2-1, the result closing the gap to one point with one game to go. Visiting keeper Rubén did well to block an early shot from Gameiro, but with half an hour on the clock Thievy connected with Jonathan Zongo’s cross to give the Andalusians the lead. Soon after the restart Zongo fired an acrobatic shot against the foot of the post, and minutes later Sergio Rico had to save from Thievy. However some twenty minutes into the second half Iborra levelled the scores after Figueiras played a long Banega centre back across goal, and just six minutes after that Iborra got his second of the night after a Iago Aspas centre deflected to him. With a quarter of an hour to go Almería were left with ten men when Trujillo was sent off for bringing down Gameiro as he advanced on goal, and Vitolo and Gameiro came close to increasing the lead later on. The defeat leaves Sergi Barjuan’s team down in the bottom three, and they now need to win against Valencia in their last match to have any hope of escaping the drop. However they could of course be down earlier if the CAS uphold FIFA’s three point deduction when they meet next Wednesday. Sevilla meanwhile keep up the push for that Champions League spot, although they have a second option to make it into the top European competition after they won through to the Europa League final mid-week.
After today’s results Eibar also find themselves in the relegation spots, although they still have a chance of saving themselves after they picked up a vital point in a 1-1 draw at Getafe. The locals needed a point as well to ensure another season in the top flight, and they got off to a good start, with Babá heading wide a couple of times and Escudero testing Irureta with a long shot. With just over half an hour gone Hinestroza headed the Madrid based side in front from a Pedro León corner, but just a couple of minutes later Borja headed the equalizer after Raúl Navas headed a Javi Lara corner against the bar. After the interval Diego Castro fired a long shot just wide, and both teams hit the post, Arruabarrena with a shot from Didac’s cross, and Juan Rodríguez with a header from another León corner. A useful point for both sides in the end though, and Eibar host the already relegated Córdoba next Saturday, knowing that a victory in that game may just be enough if other results go in their favour.
Deportivo and Granada are the only other sides who could be relegated, although both won on Sunday to move two points clear of their rivals. Deportivo beat Levante 2-0, a first victory for the Galicians in fifteen games. As he did last week at the San Mamés stadium, Lopo scored the vital first goal after getting on the end of a wide Lucas Pérez free kick with twenty minutes gone. Víctor Casadesús almost caught Fabricio off his line with a long shot later in the first half, but otherwise the local keeper had little work to do, and Juan Domínguez and Lucas Pérez both saw efforts go wide of the mark after the locals pushed for a second goal after the break. And with ten minutes to go Juanfran did find the net for a second time, the full back picking up a pass from Pérez and curling a shot wide of Diego Mariño to the delight of the local fans. They are not out of the woods yet however, as they have to visit the Nou Camp next weekend needing at least a draw to be sure of staying up.
Granada meanwhile won 0-3 at Real Sociedad to move closer to a miraculous late escape. Just three weeks ago the Andalusians were languishing down in the drop zone, but wins against Getafe and Córdoba under new coach José Ramón Sandoval has given them hope. Real meanwhile had little to play for, although Carlos Vela and Chory Castro did come close to giving them the lead before the break. Zubikarai had to save from a Mainz header and Piti fired a long shot over the top either side of half time, and Carlos Martínez curled a shot against the upright at the other end. However with twenty minutes or so to go El-Arabi got on the end of a Robert Ibáñez cross to open the scoring, and soon afterwards Ibáñez made it two with a shot which looped off De la Bella over the head of the keeper. With the game coming to a close Rochina completed the scoring, catching Zubikarai off his line with a shot from just over the half-way line, and Granada go into their last match at home to Atlético Madrid with their morale at maximum.
The remaining Europa League spots are also up for grabs, although how many places are available will not be known until the Copa del Rey and Europa League finals have taken place. However if Barcelona and Sevilla win those games, then the team finishing eighth in the league could be playing in Europe next season. Sixth placed Villarreal are already sure of one spot though, and they pushed Málaga down to eighth after beating the Andalusians 2-1. Javi Guerra was a constant menace for the visitors, the striker shooting wide across goal early on, and then testing Juan Carlos a couple of times after that. Villarreal’s best effort was a shot just wide by Manu Trigueros before the break, but with eight minutes to go Gerard Moreno got on the end of Rukavina’s centre to give his team the lead. A couple of minutes later Víctor Ruíz blocked another shot from Guerra, and soon afterwards Moreno got his second of the evening after Kameni gifted him the ball in front of goal. Sergi Darder did head a late consolation from Duda’s cross in the dying minutes, but the goal came too late to change the result.
Cup finalists Athletic Bilbao move above Málaga to seventh after coming from two goals down to beat Elche 2-3, and they now have two bites at the Europa League cherry, either by winning the cup or finishing in that seventh spot. Viguera fired an early shot into the side netting, but otherwise the home side dominated the first half, Jonathas, Víctor Rodríguez and Adrián González all failing to find the target before Jonathas ran on to Fajr’s return pass to force a shot past Herrerín. With half time approaching Jonathas made it two after a quickly taken Adrián free kick caught the Bilbao defence sleeping, and after the restart Rodríguez could have added a third. However Bilbao’s youngsters turned the game around in the last ten minutes, Aketxe running on to an Aduríz pass to score his first goal for the club, and San José making it two with a first time shot past Tyton after Aketxe’s cross was headed up into the air by a defender. San José had a headed goal disallowed a couple of minutes later for reasons only the referee knows, and with the game in injury time Williams volleyed home the winner after Aduríz headed on Herrerín’s long clearance.
Espanyol, Celta and Rayo Vallecano are also within reach coming in to the last day, Paco Jémez’s side keeping their chances open with a 1-2 victory at Córdoba. Raúl Baena opened the scoring for the visitors after Saizar could only push out a shot from Licá midway through the first half, but the locals came close to equalizing when Fede Vico turned Florin’s cross onto the post before the break. Saizar had to save from his own defender Deivid and from Insúa after the interval, but soon afterwards Luso made it all square with an acrobatic scissors kick in off the post after Borja García crossed in following a short corner. Saizar had to turn an Aquino shot for a corner soon afterwards though, and with twelve minutes to go Embarba picked up a Trashorras headed pass and left his marker for dead before steering an angled shot past the local keeper. Youngster Fran Serrano headed against the bar and Toño kept out Heldón Ramos later on, but it was another defeat for the Andalusians, who are writing their names into the record books having only picked up two points in the second half of the season. (17.05.15)