Real stumble to hand Barca title

Catalan giants secure their 22nd Primera Division title after rivals Real Madrid draw 1-1 at Espanyol.

    Real stumble to hand Barca title
    The draw left Jose Mourinho's side seven points adrift of the leaders with two games left to play [AFP]

    Barcelona clinched the Spanish league title after Real Madrid were held to 1-1 at the Catalan club's cross-town rivals Espanyol on Saturday.

    Madrid staved off Barcelona's title celebration by winning their last three games, but the titleholders failed to delay it any longer.

    Espanyol's Cristian Stuani opened in the 23rd minute. Gonzalo Higuain levelled in the 58th, but Madrid couldn't find the winner even with Cristiano Ronaldo going on to help.

    Barcelona sealed the league with a seven-point lead and four games to go, and with Madrid having only six more points in play.

    It is Barcelona's 22nd league title and fourth in five seasons. Madrid hold a record 32.

    Barcelona can match Madrid's record haul of 100 points from last season by winning their last four matches.

    ‘Rightful champion’

    "Barcelona is the rightful champion,'' said Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso.

    Espanyol finished with 10 men after Victor Sanchez was shown a red card for a low tackle on Higuain with Madrid looking for a second goal.

    Madrid coach Jose Mourinho left Ronaldo on the bench until the 57th with his team set to play the final of the Copa del Rey on Friday against Atletico. After bowing out of the Champions League semi-finals, it is Madrid's only hope for silverware this season.

    With Ronaldo spectating, Madrid didn't threaten the hosts' area in the first half, and Espanyol struck with their first goal against the powerhouse in four visits to Cornella-El Prat Stadium.

    Stuani scooped the ball into the net from a pass by Sergio Garcia after Madrid failed to defend a corner kick to give Espanyol the lead.

    Stuani almost added a second goal five minutes later when Joan Verdu played him clear, but Madrid goalkeeper Diego Lopez bettered him one-on-one.

    Espanyol kept pressing and it appeared Hector Moreno scored with a header from another corner, but the referee waved it off after ruling that he fouled Alonso, who had gone on to replace the injured Raphael Varane.

    With his team showing no signs of coming back, Mourinho sent on Karim Benzema for Alvaro Morata at the start of the second half. He also ordered Ronaldo to start warming up and soon threw him into the mix in place of a lacklustre Kaka.

    But it fell to Higuain to equalise with a glancing header to send Luka Modric's free kick under goalkeeper Kiko Casilla and take his personal tally against Espanyol to 10 goals.

    Madrid pushed Espanyol back into their area, but it came no closer than two free kicks by Ronaldo that sailed well high.



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