THE moment of crowning came for Real Madrid over in Spain on Thursday night. That it came three years too late is immaterial – the point being Los Blancos, at some point, looking like they would not cross the line in the coronavirus-disrupted La Liga campaign, are champions again!
Manager on high, Zinedine Zidane described the feeling of sealing the title as making him happier than winning the Champions League. Yes, the former France international declared this. Real wrapped up the title with a game to spare as they edged past Villarreal at an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, while over at Camp Nou, Barcelona made the inevitable easier by conceding a 2-1 defeat against Osasuna.
Karim Benzema fired between the legs of Sergio Asenjo and added a controversial second from a retaken penalty in his side’s eventual 2-1 triumph. With Real leading 2-0, Villarreal’s Vicente Iborra pulled one back as the clock wound down but it mattered little as Real sealed a 34th Spanish title.
The champions owe credit to a fiery return to competitive action in June after romping to victory in all 10 of their matches. Zidane said: “This is better than anything. It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga. After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. After lockdown and everything, it’s astonishing.”
The Frenchman added: “Today is one of the best days for me as a professional. After everything that happened, the three-month break, it is fantastic what has been achieved.”
Madrid, who lifted three successive Champions League titles in Zidane’s first tenure, fell astonishingly short of replicating similar dominance in Spain, recording successive third-place finishes since their previous domestic title as Barça, instead, took charge here. But cometh the hour, Real’s title-winning moment looked like set to be relatively straightforward.
Step forward Sergio Ramos. The defender was brought down as he entered the opposition’s box after a marauding run and, after a VAR check, put the ball down on the spot. The Real captain, staring at an 11th strike this season, dummied to strike the ball and, instead, rolled it to his right for the onrushing Benzema, whose strike all but put paid to the affair.
“It has been a strange season but our objective was very clear once the league restarted. We wanted to win every game. This is the reward for all our hard work. 34 leagues, my fifth title,” said Ramos in stark reflection, afterwards. “Zidane has been key, he is the captain of the ship and led us from the start of the season – we have always felt protected with Zizou.”
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