MANILA – Real Madrid ended a three-year wait for a La Liga Santander championship after clinching it at home with a 2-1 victory over Villarreal at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium in the Spanish capital early Friday (Manila time).
Karim Benzema’s brace sealed Real Madrid’s fate even if it had to hold off a late rally from Villarreal that could have made the title race more interesting, considering that Barcelona also played at home against Osasuna on Friday.
Benzema struck first in the 29th minute after Luka Modric found him open at the right side of the penalty box for the 1-0 lead.
Benzema then capped his scoring with a 77th-minute goal to double Real Madrid’s lead.
Villarreal tried to make it a match after Vicente Iborra headed in an 83rd-minute goal to put his club on the board.
Villarreal, which looks to lock up a spot in the UEFA Europa League, had a chance to tie the match in stoppage time but Thibaut Courtois saved the point-blank shot from going in to help preserve the full three points for Real Madrid.
Real Madrid bolstered its status as the “winningest” side in La Liga Santander with its 34th title, its first since 2017.
Its win over Villarreal rendered the result of the Barcelona-Osasuna match at Camp Nou in Barcelona of little impact since Real Madrid owned the head-to-head tiebreaker over its “El Clasico” rival with its 2-0 home win last February.
However, Osasuna still provided some help for Real Madrid’s cause with a shock 2-1 road win.
Jose Arnaiz began Osasuna’s spoiler job with a 15th-minute goal to put his club on the board.
Lionel Messi somehow kept Barcelona alive in the title race after drilling in a free kick in the 62nd minute.
Barcelona had a golden chance to get all three points as Osasuna was reduced to 10 men in the 77th minute after the referee flashed the red card on Enric Gallego.
However, Barcelona failed to capitalize on the power play and Roberto Torres punished Barcelona at its own turf with a stoppage-time goal to give Osasuna the road win.
In another Match Day 37 result, Atletico Madrid jumped to solo third place after taking a 2-0 road win at Getafe that put a dent in the latter’s hopes of making the UEFA Europa League.
Real Sociedad, on the other hand, missed out on boosting its own bid for European competition after UEFA Champions League-bound Sevilla held the club to a goalless draw.
Granada officially sent Mallorca to relegation after a 2-1 win, Alaves formally survived relegation with a 2-1 victory against Real Betis, Leganes stayed alive in its quest to stay in the top flight with a 2-0 win against Athletic Bilbao, and Levante put Celta Vigo in relegation danger with a 3-2 victory.
Leganes will host the newly crowned champion, while Celta Vigo will travel to Barcelona to take on relegation-bound Espanyol early Monday (Manila time) to decide which team stays and which team goes back to the second division. (PNA)