Real Madrid celebrated their 31st Liga in style by thumping rivals Barcelona 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu. This will have to go down as the most one-sided clasico since Ronaldinho destroyed Madrid’s defence in November 2005. How times have changed since then. Ronaldinho is only in the news now for his off the field antics, while Madrid have formed a solid compact unit that has won La Liga at a canter.
The Barcelona players suffered the shame of having to applaud their rivals onto the pitch, but by the end of the night this humiliation was nothing compared to what they experienced over 90 minutes. from the beginning Diarra, Sneijder and Gago ruled the midfield and even Leo Messi was kept completely out of the game as Barça’s midfield players struggled to connect with the forwards.
Raul put Madrid in front in the 13th minute after Guti had exchanged passes with Sneijder, Marquez challenged Guti but the ball broke free to Raul who whipped in a low shot past Valdes. Barça appealed for a foul by Guti on Marquez but the referee Perez Burrull was having none of it. If Barça had complaints about the first goal, they were incensed by the second. The ref blew a foul after a blatant dive by Sergio Ramos in front of Abidal. Barça were so disturbed by the decision that they forgot to mark Arjen Robben who was free to head home Guti’s free kick.
Frank Rijkaard then decided to put on the young Mexican, Giovani Dos Santos, in place of Gudjohnsen and Barça switched to a 4-2-4 system which only helped Madrid to dominate more easily. Guti and Robben had efforts saved by Valdes before half time. At the break Sylvinho came on for Rafa Marquez and Eric Abidal switched to centre back, but Madrid were now threatening to run riot.Diarra forced another save from Valdes in the 53rd minute and soon after Sylvinho made a last ditch intervention to prevent Marcelo from scoring. Sylvinho was injured making the tackle and had to be replaced by Edmilson.
In the 60th minute Ramos had a shot cleared off the line by Xavi after Valdes failed to hold a corner, but shortly after Diarra made a great run down the left before setting up Higuain who had just come on for Robben, and with his first touch he beat Valdes to make it 3-0. Marcelo nearly made it four soon after but this time Valdes came to the rescue with a fine save.
Messi made his first decent run in the 71st minute but Bojan wasted the chance created. Schuster then decided to reward Raul by taking him off to a standing ovation and Van Nistlerooy came on in his place. Withion a minute Puyol was penalized for handball in the area, although it seemed a clear case of self defence, and Van Nistlerooy stepped forward to make it 4-0 from the spot.
As the Bernabeu chanted for five, Leo Messi came alive with two fantastic runs that brought fine save from Iker Casillas, then in the 87th minute Messi threaded a pass through to Henry who finally beat Casillas for a consolation goal. In injury time Xavi chose his moment to tell Perez Burrull exactly what he thought of his decision making and was duly sent off. It was a shame the ref was so bad because Madrid thoroughly deserved the win and with a little more luck could easily have won the game 6-0 or 7-0. The day after the game Barça’s president Joan Laporta confirmed that Pep Guardiola will take over from Frank Rijkaard as first team coach for next season.
Meanwhile, Villarreal guaranteed themselves second place and automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League with a 0-2 win at Recreativo, Nihat and Guille Franco scoring the goals. Atletico Madrid made a big step towards the Champions League when goals from Agüero and Forlan gave them a 0-2 victory at Espanyol. While Sevilla kept up their challenge with a 0-3 win at Racing Santander with two goals from Fazio and a third from Renato.
At the other end of the table things are looking bad for Osasuna after they lost 2-1 at Mallorca. Güiza scored again for Mallorca before Portillo gave Osasuna some hope, but Valero scored Mallorca’s winner in injury time. Osasuna are level on points with Recreativo, and one point above them is Zaragoza who went down 1-0 at Valencia through a goal from David Silva. Valladolid are still in danger after their 1-1 draw at Betis, Mark Gonzalez put the home team in front but Victor equalized for Valladolid.
Valencia and Getafe are almost safe now after their victories. Getafe came from 0-2 down to beat Almeria 4-2, Crusat and Paunovic scored first for Almeria before Albin, Del Moral, twice, and Granero turned the game around for Getafe.
In the other games this week the already relegated Murcia lost 1-2 at home to Atletic Bilbao, and bottom club Levante went down 1-0 at Deportivo. Levante’s players made a protest for having not been paid in months, and when Deportivo kicked off the Levante players all stood together at the centre circle and did not move. Depor’s forward Sergio took the ball towards the empty goal before deliberately shooting wide to loud applause from the crowd.
Top Six: Real Madrid 81, Villarreal 71, Barcelona 64, Atletico Madrid 61, Sevilla 58, Racing 56.
Bottom Six: Valladolid 43, Zaragoza 41, Recreativo 40, Osasuna 40, Murcia 30, Levante 26.
Top Scorers: Güiza 25, Luis Fabiano 23, Raul 18, Agüero 18, Nihat 18.