Atletico Madrid claimed their first La Liga title in 18 years following a 1-1 draw with Barcelona at Camp Nou on Saturday.
Alexis Sanchez struck a well-taken opener in the 33rd minute to give Barcelona a 1-0 lead that would have handed the title to the Catalans. But Diego Godin equalised three minutes into the second half to secure a draw—and the championship—for Atletico.
Heading into the match, Barcelona trailed Atletico by three points but knew a victory on home soil would be enough to claim their second straight league title. Atletico, by contrast, only needed a draw—but their task became more difficult after losing striker Diego Costa and midfielder Arda Turan to injuries in the first half.
With the draw, Atletico finish the season on 90 points, enough for their first league title since 1995-96. Diego Simeone's side will now push on in search of a second trophy when they face crosstown rivals Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final next Saturday.
For Barcelona, meanwhile, it was a disappointing end to a disappointing season. Though Barca finished second, ahead of Real Madrid, the Catalans failed to claim a trophy after being knocked out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey earlier this spring. But with superstar forward Lionel Messi reportedly signing a new contract, Barca should still have a solid foundation on which to build next season.
For manager Tata Martino, it was the end of his only season in Catalonia. After the match, the Barcelona manager announced he will not continue next season, as quoted by @dermotcorrigan. Barcelona have been linked to a move for manager Luis Enrique, per The Guardian.
Atletico started well, Miranda coming close with a sixth-minute header and Turan shooting off target six minutes later. The visitors received bad news in the 16th minute, though, when Costa left the match with an injury.
After making way for substitute Adrian, Costa could be seen shedding tears on the sideline, a hint of the match's importance.
The bad news continued for Atleti in the 23rd minute as Turan limped off the pitch with an injury of his own. He was replaced by Raul Garcia, forcing Simeone to shuffle his lineup twice before a quarter of the match was finished.
Barcelona tried to capitalise quickly as Dani Alves crossed dangerously to the back post in the 26th minute. Pedro rose highest to meet the pass but directed his header over the bar.
Seven minutes later, Barca went ahead.
Cesc Fabregas started the sequence, chipping a pass into the box for Messi to chest down. Sanchez ran on and smashed a blistering shot in at the near post for a 1-0 lead.
With that, Barcelona put themselves in position to take the title. Needing a goal for their own title aspirations, Atletico pushed for an equaliser, Garcia flashing a shot wide of the far post in the 45th minute.
Atleti came close again moments after the break, David Villa hitting the woodwork in the 46th minute. Three minutes later, the visitors leveled.
Koke curled in a corner from the right for Godin, who rose unmarked to power his header in at the far post. The goal not only pulled Atletico back onto level terms, but also back into position to win the title.
Barcelona looked to have restored their lead in the 64th minute as Messi blasted high into the net, but the goal was ruled out for offside in the build-up. The hosts came close again in the 80th minute, Alves forcing Thibaut Courtois to save his high shot from distance.
Barca continued pushing desperately for the all-important second goal, with goalkeeper Jose Pinto moving forward into the attack in the closing moments. It never arrived, though, and instead Atletico were able to celebrate the title on Barca's home ground.
|Barcelona Player Ratings|
|Alexandre Song (for Busquets, 57')||N/A||6|
|Neymar (for Pedro, 62')||N/A||6|
|Xavi (for Fabregas, 77')||N/A||6|
|Atletico Madrid Player Ratings|
|Adrian (for Costa, 16')||6||6|
|Raul Garcia (for Turan, 23')||6||6|
|Jose Sosa (for Adrian, 72')||N/A||5|
Godin, Atletico's goalscorer, praised his side's performance—not only on the day but all season as well. Speaking to Gol TV (h/t Inside Spanish Football), he said:
We fought all season and did an amazing job. Holding on in there for 38 games against Real Madrid and Barcelona was always going to be difficult.
Simeone told us during the interval that he was certain we were going to get a goal.
Football has seen justice done.
Barcelona's Andres Iniesta lamented a disappointing end to the season and hinted at changes coming to the club, telling Gol TV (h/t Inside Spanish Football):
Congratulations to Atléti, they’re fair champions… We’ve failed, like everyone else. We had options just like they did into the final game. They were better and there’s not much else I can say. We’re hurting for having lost La Liga in the final game of the season.
We were relying on winning this game. We haven’t and that makes this season disappointing, because if we had won, everything would be different. The season is over, lots of things are over.
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