Ronaldo Fires Real to First Title Since 2012 With Win at Malaga

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano Ronaldo celebrate after winning La Liga. (Reuters Photo/Jon Nazca)

By : Richard Martin | on 11:19 AM May 22, 2017
Category : Sports, Football

Barcelona. Real Madrid ended a five-year wait to win La Liga on Sunday (21/05) as Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema secured a 2-0 win at Malaga which clinched a 33rd league triumph.

Barcelona fought back from two goals down to beat Eibar 4-2 but the result could not stop Real from lifting the trophy.

Real finished the campaign on 93 points, three clear of last year's champions Barca.

‎Zinedine Zidane's men only needed a draw to wrap up the title in their final game of the season and raced into the lead when Ronaldo latched onto a through ball from Isco to round Carlos Kameni. That goal ensured Real scored in every league game this season.

Malaga had nothing to play for but made a fist of the game and it took a fine save from Keylor Navas to prevent former Barca player Sandro Ramirez leveling from a freekick later in the first half and the striker also came close from a header.

Real also wasted chances to stretch their lead before Benzema bundled the ball in on the rebound in the 55th minute after Kameni had saved from Sergio Ramos following a corner.

"Just as throughout the season we did it in the end with hard work and by fighting," Zidane told reporters.

"With the type of squad we have we only have to think about working, it's been a very hard fought league win, difficult at some moments, but after 38 games there's no better feeling than being at the top."

There was a brief moment of concern when Ronaldo needed treatment after falling awkwardly from a challenge but the Portuguese, who scored for the fifth time in three league games, was able to finish the game, easing Madrid's anxieties before the Champions League final against Juventus on June 3.

The result secured Real a sixth straight league win since going down 3-2 to Barca in April.

Barca fell two goals behind in their final game of the season against Eibar as Japanese forward Takashi Inui scored either side of the break with two thumping finishes in off the crossbar although the Catalans fought back to win 4-2 with the help of a double from the league's top scorer Lionel Messi.

"The game was a demonstration of what the team has been like in the last few years. We never give up, although we couldn't finish the year how we wanted to," said Barca coach Luis Enrique.

"We weren't consistent enough throughout the season, especially in home games, and in the end we've paid for that."

The Catalans had missed a slew of chances before then and had a goal ruled out but they got a lucky break when Eibar defender David Junca inadvertently sent a loose ball into his own net after Neymar had hit the post.

Luis Suarez knocked in the equalizer in the 73rd minute after Messi had missed a penalty although the Argentine compensated by converting a second spotkick in the 75th and then rounded off the scoring in injury time.

Messi finished the season as top scorer in the league with 37 strikes, ahead of Suarez on 29 and Ronaldo on 25.

Also on Sunday Atletico Madrid said farewell to their beloved Vicente Calderon stadium in the most fitting manner with a 3-1 win over Athletic Bilbao thanks to a double by homegrown hero Fernando Torres on Sunday before they move to a new ground.

Atletico finished third with 78 points while Athletic missed out on sixth and a qualifying round spot in next season's Europa League to Basque rivals Real Sociedad, who snatched a 2-2 draw at Celta Vigo with an added time leveler from striker Juanmi.

Athletic are seventh but can still earn a place in the Europa League if Barcelona win the King's Cup.

Zidane's Feeling

Zinedine Zidane declared that leading Real Madrid to their first La Liga title in five years, and 33rd overall, was one of the happiest days of his glittering sporting career.

Real beat Malaga 2-0 on the final day of the season on Sunday to finish three points clear of Barcelona and reclaim the title for the first time since 2012.

"For me the Spanish league is the best in the world so it's an incredible feeling to win it," Zidane told reporters.

"It was very important to win the league after many years without it and we know that the league is the competition of every day and it's a huge thing to win it. It's even more important for Real Madrid because it's the biggest club in the world and we had to win it again."

The coach also hailed his squad for embracing his rotation policy which he said had been vital to winning the title and praised the players who had accepted being left out of the starting line-up on occasion.

"It's a spectacular day, everyone deserves credit but above all the players have fought, the message has always been that every player is important and that's been the key to this success," he said.

"It's been a very hard fought win, difficult at some moments but after 38 games there's no better feeling than being at the top."

Zidane has won four trophies in 16 months since taking charge of the Spanish giants and he is one step from becoming the first Real coach since 1958 to win the European Cup and league title in the same season.

Real meet Juventus in the Champions League final on June 3 and will be bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since AC Milan in 1990.

"I can finally celebrate after months and months of work. There are no words to define how I feel now," added Zidane, whose list of achievements include winning the league title as a Real player in 2003, scoring the winning goal in the 2002 Champions League final and capturing the 1998 World Cup with France.

"When you're the Real Madrid coach you know that expectations are very high but I like that. Winning the league is the best thing imaginable."

Barca's Inconsistency

Barcelona's inconsistency over the season had cost them the La Liga title, coach Luis Enrique has said.

A second half comeback from two goals down to beat Eibar 4-2 on the final day of the season proved futile as Real beat Malaga 2-0 to end a five-year run without the title.

Barca took 14 points from 18 in their six games against Spain's top four sides Real, Sevilla and Atletico. Real picked up just eight in the corresponding games.

The Catalans, however, proved less reliable against supposedly weaker opposition, dropping points against Real Betis, Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo, Deportivo La Coruna, Alaves and Malaga. Madrid took maximum points from those games.

"We haven't ended the season as we wanted. La Liga is 38 games long and it rewards consistency. We were not consistent enough," Luis Enrique told a news conference.

"Especially earlier in the season at home and we have paid for that. We didn't depend on ourselves. We fought until the very end and now we congratulate the worthy champions.

"Whoever wins the league is the worthy winner. We know where we fell short, but this is how it is in the top competitions."

Barca supporters unveiled a huge banner before the game in tribute to the coach, who spent eight seasons with the club as a player, in his last league match in charge before taking a sabbatical.

He won a treble in his first season in charge in 2014-15 and a double in his second campaign, but next week's King's Cup final against Alaves is his only chance of silverware in his final season.

"I think the team has done great things throughout the season but unfortunately the line that separates victory and defeat is very small, as we have found out," he added.

"I wish we could have kept winning trophies but there are other teams that want the same and are at the same level as us."

Reuters

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