Five matches that swung the sea­son

New Straits Times - - Sport -

MADRID: Real Madrid se­cured their 33rd La Liga crown on Sun­day with their 2-0 win at Malaga, fin­ish­ing three points above Barcelona and end­ing a five-year spell with­out a league ti­tle.

Here are five games that were cru­cial to Zine­dine Zi­dane’s side pip­ping Barca to the tro­phy.

z Barcelona 1-2 Alaves, Sept 10

The cham­pi­ons’ mis­guided spend­ing the pre­vi­ous sum­mer was laid bare as Luis En­rique’s heav­ily ro­tated side, con­tain­ing four new sign­ings, suf­fered a shock de­feat at home to newly pro­moted Alaves.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Ini­esta were thrown on in an at­tempt to res­cue the game but it could not avert a stun­ning loss which raised ques­tions about the new re­cruits.

z Real Betis 1-6 Real Madrid, Oct 15

Zine­dine Zi­dane went into the match against Real Betis un­der fire af­ter four back-to-back draws in all com­pe­ti­tions but a thump­ing win proved a fine tonic for the French­man’s stut­ter­ing side.

Real took the lead in the fourth minute through Raphael Varane and in­creased their lead to 4-0 be­fore half-time. The thrash­ing re­stored their con­fi­dence and was the first step of a six-game win­ning streak that saw them race clear at the top.

z Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid, Dec 3

The first ‘Cla­sico’ of the sea­son of­fered Barca the chance to cut their six-point deficit with Real in half. Luis Suarez headed them in front, but Andres Ini­esta, Lionel Messi and Ney­mar wasted chances to kill the game off.

Not for the first time, Real were res­cued by a late header from cap­tain Ser­gio Ramos, who pow­ered in a Luka Mo­dric cross in the 90th minute to frus­trate Barca and pre­serve Madrid’s healthy lead at the top.

z Vil­lar­real 2-3 Real Madrid, Feb 26

Real were un­der huge pres­sure to win at an in-form Vil­lar­real af­ter Barca had gone top by snatch­ing a late win at Atletico Madrid, but they fell two goals be­hind early in the sec­ond half.

A Gareth Bale header sparked a re­mark­able 19-minute turn­around, how­ever, helped by a hugely con­tested penalty which was con­verted by Cris­tiano Ron­aldo.

Sub­sti­tute Al­varo Morata’s header then grabbed all three points to re­store Real’s lead in the stand­ings.

z Malaga 2-0 Barcelona, April 8

A late equaliser by An­toine Griez­mann in the Madrid derby should have gal­vanised Barcelona when they then played strug­gling Malaga with the chance to go level on points at the top. But the An­dalu­sians, coached by Real hero Michel, had other ideas.

Barca re­ject San­dro Ramirez fired Malaga ahead in the first half and the visi­tors’ frus­tra­tions grew when Ney­mar was sent off for a sec­ond book­ing. With hope of an equaliser fad­ing fast, Jony Ro­driguez hit a sec­ond for Malaga, seal­ing a fourth league de­feat for Barca and ef­fec­tively killing their ti­tle hopes. Reuters

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