MADRID ( Associated Press) — Real Madrid took it easy this time around.
With a title-winning campaign few could fight, Madrid won their record-expanding 35th Spanish league title on Saturday, lifting the trophy with four rounds to spare after beating Espanyol 4-0 with their backup players.
Under red-hot Karim Benzema, Madrid were in control from the start, successfully tackling every run scored by their challengers and comfortably winning their second league title in three seasons.
“We were very consistent throughout the season,” said coach Carlo Ancelotti. “We stumbled in very few matches.”
Barcelona thought Madrid might have had a chance to catch up after a correction late in the season, but it never came close. Sevilla was near the top for a period but could not keep up, eventually missing out on their chances after losing 3-2 to Madrid at home after going 2-0 at halftime a few rounds ago. Defending champions Atletico Madrid got off to a slow start and didn’t have enough momentum to struggle.
After their win over Espanyol, Madrid were 17 points ahead of Sevilla, 18 points ahead of Barcelona and 20 points ahead of Atlético.
Having been on top since the 14th round in November, Madrid led all but the first six rounds of the season.
It was Madrid’s third league title in the previous six seasons, one more than Barcelona and two more than Atlético in that period. Previously, Barcelona had won six titles in eight seasons, with Madrid winning one and Atlético another.
Here’s a look at some of the reasons Madrid won the Spanish league:
Benzema didn’t start on Saturday as Ancelotti rested most of the regular starters ahead of the Champions League semi-final against Manchester City on Wednesday, but the French striker was only minutes off the bench to score his league-leading 26th goal. was needed.
He has 11 more than his nearest challengers, and his total tally for the season with 42 goals from 42 appearances has been his best campaign to date.
The 34-year-old striker has scored 18 goals in his last 13 appearances, including a decisive hat-trick in recent Champions League games.
VINÍCIUS. duo with
Benzema was a perfect partner in the attack as Vinicius Jr. also had a breakout season, eventually becoming an effective goalscorer.
Brazil found the net 14 times, and with Benzema scoring more than half of the team’s 73 goals. This leaves Madrid with the league’s best offense, with 12 goals more than Barcelona.
The second most goalscorer of Madrid is Marco Asensio, who has 10.
Saturday’s title made Ancelotti the first coach to win all five top leagues, and his experience was key to keeping Madrid off track when things got tough.
He managed the team well and it got into good form in the crucial stages of the season. Ancelotti was criticized for rotating his players enough in his first stint at the club from 2013–15, when he failed to win the league.
He said the international breaks this season were turning points for the team, especially after their 4-0 loss to Barcelona at home to Madrid.
Madrid won all five of their league matches after losing the “Clásico” at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.
It won both its matches against Sevilla, and the first against Atlético. The second will take place next week at the rival’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium.
“We’ve put in a lot of effort this year,” said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “We were consistent and did well in the major games. We came out of tough matches and that’s why we are champions.”
no ramos no problem
There were doubts about Madrid’s defense when Sergio Ramos left to join Paris Saint-Germain last season, but the team did fine without the experienced captain.
David Alaba and Oder Militao handled the pressure well in the middle of the defence, and Madrid only scored 29 goals so far, one more than Sevilla’s league-best defence.
As always, Courtois was solid in goals throughout the season, and the defense was well protected by a midfield that included veterans Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Modric said, ‘Winning the league is always special. “It’s the first time we’ve won it four games before the end of the season. That says a lot, we’ve had a great season.”
Madrid held on to the title despite not counting some important players such as Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard, who were injured during the length of the season.
Bale, often criticized by Madrid fans for his lack of effort, did not even make it to the title ceremony on Saturday, attributing his absence at the Bernabeu to a back spasm.
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