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La Liga: Real Madrid’s away form is the stuff of champions

Cristiano Ronaldo leads the way to the title, while Leo Messi bids farewell to coach Pep Guardiola with a four-goal haul.


Goal machine: Benzema and Higuaín have backed up Ronaldo's goalscoring feats with impressive numbers of their own this season.

The last couple of weeks in the Spanish liga may have lost much of their tension after Real Madrid’s victory at Barcelona all but sealed the title race, but the season’s closing stages are still providing plenty of drama.

When Madrid finally did secure the league title on Wednesday, the way they did so was utterly fitting. A 3-0 win at Athletic Bilbao’s feared San Mamés reflected the side’s superb away form this season, which has seen them drop only seven points outside the Bernabéu. And of course, Cristiano Ronaldo was on the score sheet, heading in from a corner in the 50th minute after Gonzalo Higuaín and Mesut Özil each scored in the first 20 minutes.

Ronaldo has been unstoppable throughout the season, although he has rarely looked short of support from other goalscorers. Among the many records this Real Madrid team has broken is to have three players score more than 20 goals in one season: so far Higuaín has 22, Karim Benzema, 20, and Ronaldo, 45,  (incidentally, Ronaldo scored again in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Granada).

Having already notched up the highest number of goals ever in la liga with one more round of games left to play, José Mourinho’s Madrid also hope to break the record of 99 points in one season by beating Mallorca this weekend.

That record is held by Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona and while the Catalans have relinquished their grip on both the league and Champions League titles this season, they have still provided some late drama of their own.

First, Guardiola’s recent announcement that he will leave the Camp Nou at season’s end to take a break brings to an end his glorious four-year spell at the club. Having scored a hat-trick midweek in his side’s 4-1 win against Malaga, Lionel Messi crowned Guardiola’s final game in charge at the Camp Nou by scoring all four goals in Saturday’s derby against Espanyol.

Barça’s players formed a tunnel of honour for Guardiola at the start of the game and so freely has Messi scored this season, it was tempting to think that each of his goals at the weekend was a tribute to his coach’s four trophy-laden seasons. With 50 league goals to his name and the Copa del Rey final to play, the pichichi top-scorer accolade is the only honour the Argentinean can be sure of.

Meanwhile, another departing coach, Unai Emery, secured third spot for Valencia for the third season in succession, beating Villarreal 1-0. Málaga, which had been challenging for third place, lost 2-1 at Atlético Madrid. Málaga and Atlético will now vie for the fourth Champions League spot on the final day of the season, with the Andalusians two points ahead in the standings.

At the other end of the table, there is still plenty to play for in the final game, with only Racing Santander already relegated to the second division. Only five points separate 15th-placed Granada from Sporting Gijón in 19th, with Villarreal, Rayo Vallecano and Zaragoza also fighting for their lives this weekend. Two of those relegation candidates, Rayo and Granada, play each other, ensuring that for once, Real Madrid and Barcelona will have to work hard to monopolise the nation’s attention.


Zaragoza 2 – 1 Racing

Athletic Bilbao 0 – 0 Getafe

Mallorca 1 – 0 Levante

Granada 1 – 2 Real Madrid

Sevilla 5 – 2 Rayo Vallecano

Barcelona 4 – 0 Espanyol

Sporting Gijón 2 – 1 Betis

Atlético Madrid 2 – 1 Málaga

Valencia 1 – 0 Villarreal

Osasuna 1 – 0 Real Sociedad

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Published: May 7 2012
Category: Sports, Featured, Spain News
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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