The 34th La Liga title has been secured. Real Madrid defeated Villarreal 2-1 to clinch their first league title since 2016-17 campaign, in quite dramatic circumstances.
Zinedine Zidane went with a front three of Eden Hazard, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo Goes up top, and there were plenty of changes made by Zidane’s opposite number too, as the Yellow Submarines were set-up with a back-five for the first time this season.
The first chance fell to the hosts though, as Modric tried his luck from distance, and it was smartly pushed away by Sergio Asenjo. Madrid were happy to be patient throughout the opening half hour, and were rarely troubled throughout that period.
Villarreal would have thought their game-plan was working to the tee, though just before the drinks break, disaster struck for them. Casemiro won the ball after a loose pass from Sofian Chakla into midfield, with it falling to Modric who was unmarked, and then the Croatian poked it to Benzema who slot it through Asenjo’s legs.
After the break, the visitors came out with a 4-2-3-1, and although Modric was still dictating things, Javier Calleja’s men looked a far better and more dangerous side. At the hour mark, Zidane brought off Hazard and Rodrygo, and replaced them with Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior, though it didn’t make the impact Zidane would have hoped.
Then, controversy struck. Sergio Ramos took things into his own hands, and won the ball well in the Madrid half from Gerard Moreno, and ran forward before going down in the box. The replays suggested there wasn’t enough contact to warrant a penalty, though referee Hernandez Hernandez still pointed to the spot.
From the penalty, Ramos attempted to take a clever short penalty to pass to Benzema, and although it worked and the Frenchman scored, the referee called for it to be retaken, as Benzema was in the box before the pass had been made to him. The Villarreal players were furious with the referee, as they felt it shouldn’t be allowed to be retaken. But it was, and Benzema slotted away his 21st La Liga goal of the season.
With 10 minutes to play, Kroos’ final offerings were to smash the crossbar with a left-footed effort from the edge of the box, but then moments later, Madrid were in trouble.
Mario Gaspar with the cross in from the right, Vicente Iborra with a superb header, leaving arguably the best goalkeeper in Europe this season, Thibaut Courtois, with no chance at full-stretch. At this point Madrid looked rattled, and almost threw a 2-0 lead away late-on. Courtois needed to make two huge saves in added on time, first to deny Iborra, and then Bruno Soriano – Madrid were hanging on.
And while they managed to do so, they almost made it 3-1 as well before the final whistle. Vinicius produced something incredible from the corner flag, going through and riding several challenges before teeing up Asensio, though it was eventually ruled out after a quick VAR check, for a handball from Benzema earlier in the move.
But Madrid sealed it, a 10th win in a row out of their 10 games since the resumption of football, handing Zidane an 11th title as Los Blancos coach. A ridiculous stat, only getting more ludicrous when considering the Frenchman now averages a trophy every 19 games for Real. The biggest target of the club for this campaign, has been achieved.
Up next for Real Madrid?
Who: CD Leganes
Where: Estadio Municipal de Butarque
When: Sunday 19th July @ 21:00 (CEST)