Real Madrid sealed their 34th La Liga title as victory over Villarreal on Thursday night, courtesy of a Karim Benzema double, put them seven points ahead of closest competitors Barcelona – who lost to Osasuna – with a game to spare.
Los Blancos held a four-point advantage over Barça heading into the penultimate gameweek, knowing either victory or matching the Catalan side’s result would secure their position as Spain’s top side.
Real took the lead in the 29th minute when Luka Modric teed up Karim Bemzema. The home side were on top throughout, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois rarely called into action against a Villarreal side fifth in the table at the start of play.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have won their fair share of penalties in recent weeks and were awarded another one late when Sergio Ramos went down in the box. The defender took the penalty and almost botched it in classic Thierry Henry-Robert Pires fashion, attempting to lay off Benzema who had charged into the box prematurely.
The spot kick was retaken by Benzema, who kicked the ball into the net in less complicated fashion for his 22nd league goal of the season.
Vicente Iborra did nod in late on to reduce the deficit, though that did little but jangle Real’s nerves before the hosts had a third disallowed.
Barça surprisingly fell behind in their clash with Osasuna when Jose Arnaiz lashed in, though a trademark Lionel Messi free kick restored parity in the second half. A red card to Enric Gallego for an elbow on Clement Lenglet followed, and the visitors snatched the win late on through Roberto Torres.
Real and Barça had swapped top spot for the majority of the season until the latter’s 0-0 draw at Sevilla in June opened the door for the former to go ahead. Los Blancos beat Real Sociedad 2-1 two days after Barça’s stalemate and have sat in first position ever since, with their lead now unassailable with just one gameweek left.
The title win is the latest accomplishment for manager Zidane. The former France international established himself as one of the world’s best bosses with three consecutive Champions League successes between 2016 and 2018, but this win is Real’s first La Liga title since 2016/17, which came during Zidane’s first reign.
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