Spanish Liga - Barcelona clinch title after Real Madrid draw

Barcelona were crowned La Liga champions without kicking a ball after Espanyol held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw.

Spanish Liga - Barcelona clinch title after Real Madrid draw

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FOOTBALL 2013 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo (AFP)

Madrid had needed to win the match to keep their faint title hopes alive but fell behind when Christian Stuani prodded home from a corner.

Espanyol would have doubled their advantage had Moreno’s header not been ruled out harshly for a soft push on Xabi Alonso.

Madrid rallied early in the second half and levelled when Luca Modric’s delivery was glanced in by Gonzalo Higuain before the game descended into a series of fouls and bookings.

A late horror challenge from Victor Sanchez on Higuain earned a straight red and soured a feisty encounter which saw no fewer than eleven yellow cards.

After a week of speculation linking Jose Mourinho with a return to England, the clash provided the Portuguese manager the opportunity to turn his attention to matters on the pitch.

He elected to field a weakened side ahead of Madrid’s Copa del Rey final date with local rivals Atletico Madrid, leaving the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema on the bench, and it showed from the start with Espanyol causing them all sorts of problems.

The home side almost took the lead when Victor Sanchez got in behind the Madrid backline but his shot was saved by Diego Lopez, although the flag had already gone up for offside.

Espanyol did take the lead soon after when Joan Verdu’s corner was knocked back across the goal by Sergio Garcia leaving Stuani to prod home from inside the area.

Aside from the impressive Modric, Madrid looked bereft of inspiration as their opponent’s put them under pressure at every opportunity.

The referee then adjudged that Moreno had pushed Xabi Alonso, a first half replacement for the injured Raphael Varane, in the area and disallowed the defender’s header although replays suggested that it was the Madrid player who was the guilty party.

Madrid almost grabbed an undeserved first half equaliser shortly before the break but Morata struck straight at Javi Lopez.

The second half started sluggishly as Espanyol frustrated Madrid, not allowing their more illustrious opponents any time or space, but the introduction of Ronaldo altered the complexion of the game with the Portuguese frontman drawing a foul on the left touchline with his first involvement.

From the resulting free-kick Higuain met Modric’s cross to head Madrid level.

Despite needing another goal to prevent their fierce rivals taking the La Liga title, Madrid lacked passion and drive with even Ronaldo struggling to break down a resolute Espanyol defence.

The home team almost snatched it with ten minutes to go when Forlin fed Stuani in the area but the forward, under pressure from Michael Essien, couldn’t get his shot away.

The game turned sour as a series of a yellow cards broke up the play with both teams seemingly content with a draw.

Sanchez’s late challenge on Higuain, and subsequent red card, rounded off an encounter which will be remembered more by the amount of cards – twelve in total – and Barcelona’s title victory than the actual football on display.

Man of the Match: Hector Moreno. Really took charge at the back for Espanyol and was unlucky to see his header chalked off for a push on Xabi Alonso.

Player Ratings: Espanyol: Casilla 7, Lopez 7, Colotto 7, Moreno 8, Capdevila 6, Sanchez 5, Forlin 6, Mubarak 7, Verdu 7, Garcia 6, Stuani 7... Subs: Simao 6, Baena N/A.

Real Madrid: Lopez 6, Albiol 5, Carvalho 6, Varane 6, Nacho 6, Essien 6, Modric 7, di Maria 5, Kaka 5, Morata 6, Higuain 6... Subs: Ronaldo 6, Benzema 6, Alonso 5.

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