Barcelona, 17 July 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Real Madrid were crowned Spanish champions for the first time since 2017 after a 2-1 win over Villarreal on Thursday, achieving a record 34th title triumph.
They have 86 points from 37 games, putting them seven ahead of second-place Barcelona, who lost 2-1 against Osasuna, with one match remaining each.
Karim Benzema’s double helped Madrid triumph at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium, having won 10 games straight since La Liga returned in June after a three-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Their victory stops rivals Barcelona from winning the league for the third year running.
Madrid needed to win to guarantee they would win the title without it going down to the last day of the season, or match Barcelona’s result.
Los Blancos came under barely any pressure in the first half, moving ahead through Benzema’s 20th league goal in the 29th minute.
Sofian Chakla, on only his second appearance of the season, played a poor pass out of defence which Madrid capitalized on, and Luka Modric threaded through the Frenchman to finish through Sergio Asenjo’s legs.
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who kept five clean sheets in the six matches prior to this, was not troubled by Javier Calleja’s side, fifth, after the coach made six changes and rested key players including Santi Cazorla.
Benzema doubled the lead from the penalty spot after Madrid’s captain Sergio Ramos was felled by the hapless Chakla.
The spot-kick was retaken after Ramos cheekily passed to Benzema from the first penalty, but players from both sides encroached into the area.
Vicente Iborra headed home Mario Gaspar’s cross brilliantly to create an exciting finale, and Courtois did brilliantly to keep out Bruno Soriano from close range.
“The Champions League is the Champions League but La Liga makes me happier, because La Liga is the absolute best,” said Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
“The sensation is tremendous because what the players did is impressive, I have no words for the emotion that I have.
“The players fight for it. Sure, I have my role, but it’s them who believe in it. They are a team of impressive people and when I see them so happy then I am too.”
Barcelona, meanwhile, were unable to hold up their end of the bargain, tumbling against 10-man Osasuna.
Jose Arnaiz sent the visitors ahead but Lionel Messi levelled in the second half with a free-kick.
Even after Enric Gallego’s red card Barcelona could not find a winner and Robert Torres struck in stoppage time to give Osasuna the three points.
“We are a very weak team,” said Messi. “We can be beaten on intensity and desire. We have to be self-critical as players, but as a whole too. We’ve left a lot to be desired in these games.
“We have to change a lot or we will lose against Napoli in the Champions League.”
Barcelona were top of the league when the season resumed but draws with Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid saw them fall beneath Real and this defeat confirmed their demise.
Real Mallorca were relegated after a 2-1 home defeat by Granada, while Leganes’s survival hopes remain thanks to a 2-0 win at Athletic Bilbao.
Celta Vigo, 17th, lost 3-2 at Balaidos against Levante and are only one point ahead of Leganes with one game to go.
Atletico Madrid beat Getafe 2-0, Valencia edged Espanyol 1-0, Alaves earned a 2-1 win at Real Betis, Real Sociedad and Sevilla drew 0-0 and Eibar beat Real Valladolid 3-1 in other results.