La Liga roundup

Real Madrid's draw hands Barca title

May 11, 2013
By ESPN.com news services

Barcelona was crowned La Liga champion Saturday night after nearest challenger Real Madrid failed to beat Espanyol at Estadi Cornella-El Prat.

Madrid needed a victory at the home of Barca's city rivals to prevent Tito Vilanova's men from taking their title, but Real was held to a 1-1 draw.

Saturday's result leaves Barca seven points clear at the summit ahead of its trip to Atletico Madrid on Sunday, with Jose Mourinho's side now only having two league games left this season.

"We have had a good season," said Barcelona defender Jordi Alba. "In the Champions League semifinals we didn't rise to the occasion and Bayern showed it is playing at an incredible level. But we had a good season anyway. It seems to me that the league title is underappreciated."

This is the fourth time in the past five years that Barca has been crowned Spanish champion and the 22nd time in its history -- 10 behind arch rival Madrid.

It is also the first trophy Barca has won under Vilanova, after losing to Madrid in the Spanish Supercopa at the start of the season and suffering semifinal defeats in the Champions League and Copa del Rey to Bayern Munich and Madrid, respectively.

Vilanova, who this week returned to New York for follow-up tests having spent two months in the U.S. earlier this year undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment for cancer, was promoted from assistant to head coach following Pep Guardiola's departure last summer.

"I have to congratulate Barcelona, its coaches, players, board, and fans," said Mourinho. "It just won a league that was ours until today, and the least we can do is to congratulate them."

AP Photo/Manu FernandezCristiano Ronaldo came on as a substitute Saturday but could not rally Real Madrid to a win.

It was win or bust for Madrid on Saturday with only a victory sufficient to keep the title race alive for another 24 hours.

Given Mourinho's side came into the match with nine wins and a draw in their past 10 games, anything other than three points for Real seemed unlikely.

However, Real was disjointed and off the pace in a first half dominated by Espanyol, which was unfortunate to only have a one-goal lead courtesy of Christian Stuani's 23rd-minute strike.

Hector Moreno incorrectly had a goal disallowed as Real appeared to have one eye on next Friday's Copa del Rey final against Atletico Madrid.

However, the introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo was followed moments later by Gonzalo Higuain's 58th-minute equalizer.

Espanyol was reduced to 10 men in injury time when Victor Sanchez was given his second yellow card after following through on Higuain, but Ronaldo sent the resulting free kick high and wide.

It was a much-improved second-half performance from Madrid, but it was not enough and Barcelona wrested back the title without even playing.

"Barcelona is the rightful champion," said Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso. "The league is won by the most consistent team, and we had a bad start to the season that didn't let us compete until the end."

All of Saturday's other games had implications at the other end of the table.

Athletic Bilbao took a giant step toward sealing its Primera Division status after overcoming nine-man Real Mallorca 2-1 at San Mames.

Aritz Aduriz gave the hosts an early lead but then missed a penalty after Andreu Fontas was sent off on 25 minutes.

Fernando Llorente doubled the advantage late in the second half, but Mallorca forward Giovani Dos Santos made for an exciting finish by netting a superb goal two minutes later.

However, Mallorca's hopes of snatching a late equalizer were struck a blow in injury time when Ximo Navarro was also sent off for a second booking and Athletic were able to hold on.

Alejandro Arribas struck a second-half winner to earn Osasuna a potentially priceless 1-0 victory in its fight to avoid the drop.

Arribas netted 16 minutes from time as Osasuna ended a five-match winless streak with a deserved triumph that moves it four points above third-bottom Deportivo La Coruna, which lost 1-0 at Real Valladolid.

Valladolid guaranteed survival for another season thanks to Javi Guerra's goal three minutes into the second half, taking his team onto 43 points, 11 ahead of the Galicians.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.