A brace from Karim Benzema helped Real Madrid confirm their 34th La Liga title, with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Villarreal.
The game’s first real chance came from Luka Modrić’s long-range attempt, which was palmed away by Sergio Asenjo. Attacking from the start, Los Blancos got their deserved opener midway through the first half, with Karim Benzema scoring his 20th league goal from the Croatian’s pass, putting his team 1-0 up.
After half-time, there was little to note, until the hosts were awarded a penalty, with Sergio Ramos being tripped up in the box. His cheeky penalty was disallowed, however, with Benzema entering the box too quickly for the referee. With a retaken spot-kick ordered as a result, the Frenchman slotted in his second, side-footing the ball past the Yellow Submarine’s stopper.
Kroos rattled the cross-bar with his long-range effort, before Vicente Iborra pulled a goal back with his header past Thibaut Courtois. It set up a nervy finish for Zinedine Zidane’s side, who had Courtois to thank for keeping out Bruno’s late effort.
After Marco Asensio’s late goal was disallowed by VAR, the final whistle allowed Madrid to celebrate their first La Liga title in three seasons, winning the league with a game to spare.
Key Talking Point
Zidane chose a strong starting side to get the win, and their faultless performance was worthy of a league-winning team.
Taking the initiative from the get-go, they looked to get around their opponents’ five-man backline at every opportunity, with the likes of Ferland Mendy and Carvajal positioned as wide as possible. It allowed both Hazard and Rodrygo to drift towards dangerous areas more centrally, dragging away their markers and further disorientating the visitors’ backline.
Their midfield trio was imperious, with Casemiro, Modrić and Kroos all superb in creating chances and moving the ball, while Benzema made the most of the few touches he had up front. From start to finish, it was another impressive display from the hosts, who had to withhold a nervy finish to confirm they were Spanish champions once again.
Starting XI: Courtois (6); Carvajal (7), Ramos (6), Varane (6), Mendy (7); Modrić (8*), Casemiro (7), Kroos (7); Rodrygo (7), Benzema (7), Hazard (6).
Substitutes: Asensio (6), Vinícius (6), Vázquez (N/A), Isco (N/A), Valverde (N/A).
Brilliant in midfield, Luka Modrić ran the game for Real and was in total control throughout the 90 minutes.
The Croatian was superb defensively and was fantastic in his ball distribution, helping to switch the ball from side-to-side in order to break down Villarreal’s defence. And his assist was well-weighted for Benzema’s opener, epitomising how he has plenty left to give for Los Blancos’ next season.
Key Talking Point
The Yellow Submarine were always predicted to be tough opponents for Real Madrid, having enjoyed a superb season of their own. With Europa League football yet to be mathematically confirmed, they were keen to pick up a strong result at Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano.
Manager Javier Calleja surprised many with his team selection, however, with veteran star Santi Cazorla left on the bench, despite having scored three times in his last two games. His absence was sorely felt throughout the first half, with his team lacking creativity going forward and struggling to use striker Gerard Moreno effectively. Instead, they were pinned back defensively, and weren’t able to trouble the hosts on the rare attacking occasion.
After the break, a flurry of substitutions were made as Villarreal looked to get back into the game. But even with Cazorla’s introduction, they struggled to get going, and only through Iborra’s late header did they then look threatening. At that point it was too late for them to make a late push for a point.
Starting XI: Asenjo (6); Mario (6), Chakla (6), Torres (7), Quintillà (6); , Morlanes (6), Zambo Anguissa (7); Peña (6), Chukwueze (6), Gómez (6); Moreno (6).
Substitutes: Bruno (6), Ontiveros (6), Cazorla (6), Iborra (7), Trigueros (N/A).
Providing a spark when he came off the bench, Vicente Iborra did everything he could to help Villarreal get back into the game.
His header was superb and there was little Courtois could do to keep it out, while he continued to create chances late on as his team sensed the nerves of their opponents.
Los Blancos finish their league season at Leganés on Sunday evening, while Villarreal host Eibar on the same day.