Soccer: Madrid claim Spanish title

Players of Real Madrid celebrate after their team won the Spanish League at the end of their Spanish La Liga soccer match, against Athletic Bilbao, at San Mames stadium. Photo / AP
Players of Real Madrid celebrate after their team won the Spanish League at the end of their Spanish La Liga soccer match, against Athletic Bilbao, at San Mames stadium. Photo / AP

Real Madrid claimed their first Spanish title in four years ending the reign of bitter rivals Barcelona to boot as they beat Athletic Bilbao 3-0 today for what is their 32nd league crown.

Gonzalo Higuain, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo scored the goals to give Jose Mourinho a record-breaking four titles in four different countries and the victory required with two games remaining.

Mourinho's first Spanish league title ended Barca's run of three successive league titles in his second season at the club.

Madrid needed to win after Barcelona had earlier beat Malaga 4-1 with goals from Carles Puyol and a hat-trick from Lionel Messi that saw him break Gerd Mueller's record for goals in a single European season.

Madrid started at a great pace and Higuain and Fabio Coentrao both went close within the first two minutes.

Markel Susaeta then tested Iker Casillas in the Madrid goal with a header before Madrid were awarded a penalty on 11 minutes for a clear handball by Javi Martinez.

However, Ronaldo shot straight down the centre which was easily saved by Gorka Iraizoz - it was his second penalty miss in a week after last Wednesday's Champions League shoot-out against Bayern Munich.

The Portuguese star need not have worried, five minutes later 'los blancos' were ahead when Higuain hit an unstoppable shot from 20 yards.

At the other end Athletic did not have as much luck when the referee turned down claims for what looked to be another clear handball, this time by Sami Khedira.

The title then became a virtual certainty on 20 minutes when Ronaldo found Ozil with a sweeping cross from the right-wing for the German midfielder to double the lead.

Five minutes after the interval Ronaldo headed home a corner to add the third and his 44th league goal of the season.

Athletic continued to look for a consolation roared on by a partisan home crowd, but they were reduced to 10 men on 73 minutes when Martinez was sent-off for a second yellow card after another handball.

Barca coach Pep Guardiola named a strong side as the Catalans attempted to delay Madrid's celebrations as long as possible.

A defeat against fourth placed Malaga would have handed the title to Madrid without them kicking a ball, but Barca ran out convincing winners over fourth placed Malaga.

Messi's hat-trick inspired the win and takes his total tally to 68, one better than that mustered by Mueller while playing for Bayern Munich in the 1972-73 season.

-AAP

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