Football: Ronaldo leads Real Madrid to 33rd La Liga title
MADRID (AFP) – Real Madrid won their 33rd La Liga title and first for five years as Cristiano Ronaldo s 40th goal of the season helped seal a 2-0 victory at Malaga on Sunday.
Ronaldo got Madrid off to the perfect start after just two minutes before Karim Benzema s close-range finish sealed the title 10 minutes into the second half.
Madrid beat out Barcelona at the top of the table by three points as the Catalans come-from-behind 4-2 victory over Eibar in outgoing coach Luis Enrique s last home game in charge wasn t enough for a third straight title.
“It is the happiest day of my professional life by a distance,” said Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.
“I have experienced it as a player and that is why I say it is the happiest day of my professional life because being a coach changes everything.
“I have won everything with this club, this shirt but to win La Liga is the best of all.”
Real needed just a point to be assured of the title and any lingering nerves were dispelled within seconds.
Isco latched upon a poor clearance from Luis Hernandez and his sumptuous through ball freed Ronaldo to round Carlos Kameni and fire into an empty net.
“On a collective level I think it is my best season at Real Madrid,” added Ronaldo.
“Everyone has played minutes and all the squad have contributed.”
Malaga s attitude ahead of the game had been questioned after comments by their coach Michel that he would have preferred his former club had won the league before their visit to La Rosaleda to give them a guard of honour.
However, the hosts showed why they had taken 13 points from their previous five games as the first half wore on.
Keylor Navas produced a stunning save to prevent Sandro Ramirez from doing former employers Barca a favour with a superb free-kick.
Sandro then saw another fierce effort deflect inches wide off Keko, who then had a great chance himself when he headed over unmarked from 10 yards out.
However, Benzema made sure of the title early in the second half when he swept home the loose ball after Kameni had saved Ramos s first effort.
In Barcelona, Enrique was given a warm send-off at the Camp Nou as he was greeted with a giant banner reading: “One of us forever”.
And Barca at least salvaged some pride by fighting back from 2-0 down to avoid a first ever defeat against Eibar.
“The team did many things well this season, but the line that separates triumph form defeat is very small,” said Enrique.
The former Barca captain has won eight trophies in three seasons in charge and can add another one with the Copa del Rey final to come against Alaves next weekend.
“I am fortunate because they believe in me here as a player and as a coach,” he added.
“The overall evaluation can only be positive.”
Japanese midfielder Takashi Inui had Eibar dreaming as he hit a pair of sweetly struck half-volleys in off the underside of the crossbar either side of half-time.
However, David Junca turned into his own net after Neymar had hit the post to start Barca s revival 25 minutes from time.
Yoel Rodriguez produced an incredible save to deny Lionel Messi from the penalty spot moments later.
Barca weren t to be denied a sixth straight win to end the season though as Luis Suarez bundled home from close range before Messi made amends with his second penalty 15 minutes from time.
And Messi rounded off the scoring with his 53rd goal of the season in stoppage time.