La Liga goes to wire
The Spanish league title will go down to a thrilling final day of the season with champions Barcelona holding a one-point lead over Real Madrid after a tense 3-2 win at Sevilla on Saturday. Real defeated 10-man Athletic Bilbao 5-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu although it was not as easy as the scoreline suggested with three goals in four minutes turning the tide.
Barcelona have 96 points, a point ahead of Real, and host Valladolid at Camp Nou on the final day of the season while Real travel to Malaga. Lionel Messi scored a fifth minute opener for Barca for his 32nd goal of a terrific season and Bojan Krkic bagged a second on 28 minutes.
Pedro Rodriguez added a third in the second half before Frederic Kanoute (68) and Luis Fabiano (71) stunned the visitors with quick goals and Barca had to hold on for a nervy win that, in truth, should have been comfortable. Real went past 100 goals for the season with a 5-1 rout of Bilbao although they were helped by the dismissal of Fernando Amorebieta after 21 minutes.
Cristiano Ronaldo made it five goals in three games with a 22nd minute penalty for his 26th goal of the season only for Francisco Yeste to equalise before half-time. A goal blitz saw Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Marcelo score in the final 13 minutes as Real prevented Barcelona from winning the league for one more weekend.
Barcelona had won their last three meetings against Sevilla scoring 11 goals and not conceding any so the omens were good although Sevilla had knocked them out of this season's Kings Cup. With five minutes gone Barca got the dream start with Maxwell releasing Messi who was just onside and the Argentine controlled and fired past Andres Palop for his 32nd goal of the season.
It was a huge shot in the arm and Barca dominated proceedings up to the second goal on 28 minutes through Bojan. Maxwell slipped a pass to Bojan who shrugged off his marker to fire home and Pep Guardiola was off the susbtitutes bench pumping his first in glee.
Messi missed a sitter to make it 3-0 before the interval but at half-time Barcelona knew they would be champions with Real locked 1-1 against Bilbao. Palop pulled off a wonder save to deny Messi in the second half and Sevilla then shook the champions with Kanoute and Fabiano scoring inside a matter of minutes.
Real knew they couldn't slip up against Bilbao and 33-year-old Guti started in what could be final appearance at the Bernabeu with reports that he will end his 15-year association with the club and join Turkish side Galatasaray. All eyes were on Ronaldo after his hat-trick against Mallorca and he headed over a good chance early on.
The Portuguese star was involved again on 21 minutes as his goalbound shot was handled by Amorebieta and Bilbao were handed a double punishment as Amorebieta was red-carded and Real were awarded a penalty. Ronaldo converted for his 26th league goal and Bilbao were expected to cave in with one man less.
However, four minutes before half-time whistle Yeste jinked his way past four stagnant Real defenders before dispatching the ball past Iker Casillas. Brazilian Kaka was introduced after the interval and Real found their shooting boots with Higuain, Ramos and Benzema scoring three times in a matter of minutes to down Bilbao.