It was billed as the title decider, but Atlético Madrid were no match for the league leaders in a race now all but ended
It was half past 10 on 6 April, still six weeks and seven matches from the end of the season, when Barcelona’s fans started to sing about being champions and no one thought it particularly presumptuous. A minute earlier, Luis Suárez had scored the first, skidded on his knees across the grass waving his shirt around his wrist and was engulfed by his teammates, just lying there when he was at last let loose, taking it all in, top held in his outstretched hand. Now, 90 seconds later, a sudden snap of Leo Messi’s ankle and they’d scored again, which was when “campeones, oé, oé, oé” ran round the Camp Nou: 2-0, game over. League over, too.
“Suárez and Messi bring down the curtain,” said the front of AS; they “turned out the lights”, its match report said. “Champion,” declared the cover of El Mundo Deportivo. “Another league! Now for the Champions League,” cheered Sport. And Marca led on Karim Benzema, who’d scored two against Eibar. A box alongside admitted: “Another league in their pocket.” Diego Simeone had said before the game that Atlético had to beat Barcelona to have any chance of winning the league, and they hadn’t. After it, he said: “We’ll come back next year, compete, and hopefully get a bit closer.” Zinedine Zidane had already announced, six days earlier: “We’re not going to win anything this season.”
Scored twice to bring Celta back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 against Villarreal, another team in relegation trouble, taken off later than planned because they needed him so desperately, sitting there on the bench and sobbing.
Scored one and made one to go 2-0 up against Huesca, another team in relegation trouble and been on the point of exhaustion and removal only to see Huesca score three in 10 minutes to take the lead, his manager asking him to stay on. So he did, making the equaliser with his last touch.
Scored two to take Celta from 1-0 down against Real Sociedad to 2-1, before Maxi added a third in the last minute, taking Celta two points clear of the relegation zone. The first was a penalty, the second a header where he threw himself in, crashed into the post, whipped off his shirt, and aquaplaned across the pitch on his knees screaming at supporters, the greatest idol they or anybody had ever seen. The fan who just happens to be the finest footballer in their history.
Alavés 1 Leganés 1; Barcelona 2 Atlético Madrid 0;
Celta Vigo 3 Real Sociedad 1; Getafe 1 Athletic Bilbao 0; Girona 1 Espanyol 2; Levante 2 Huesca 2; Rayo Vallecano 2 Valencia 0; Real Betis 2 Villarreal 1; Real Madrid 2 Eibar 1; Real Valladolid 0 Sevilla 2
Source: The Guardian – La Liga