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Stabroek News

Madrid seal Spanish league title with comeback win
published: Monday | June 18, 2007


Real Madrid's Jose Antonio Reyes (centre) is congratulated by his teammates Roberto Carlos (right) and Sergio Ramos after scoring a goal against Mallorca during their Spanish first division soccer match in Madrid yesterday. Madrid won 3-1 to lift the title. - reuters

MADRID, Spain (AP):

Real Madrid came from behind to win its 30th Spanish league title yesterday, beating Mallorca 3-1 and edging defending champion FC Barcelona on head-to-head results.

Substitute Jose Antonio Reyes, who came on for David Beckham, scored two goals and Mahamadou Diarra added the other for Madrid, which won its first league title in four seasons.

Reyes scored in the 67th minute and added another in the 83rd, three minutes after Diarra's header. Fernando Varela scored for Mallorca in the 17th.

Both Madrid and Barcelona, which beat Gimnastic Tarragon 5-1, finished the season with 76 points.

Strong team

"This was a strong team with a lot of heart," said league-leading scorer Ruud van Nistelrooy, who was replaced in the 33rd because of a left leg injury. "We won this league with our play over the last 10 games. It was difficult with all the pressure but now ... we are champions and this is the most memorable year of my career."

Beckham, who came off in the 66th minute after appearing to re-aggravate a left ankle sprain, watched nervously as Madrid rallied for the win before pointing up to his wife Victoria and friends Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, who were sitting in the stands.

Madrid ended its longest major trophy drought in 53 years with a lap of honour before throwing coach Fabio Capello into the air as the Italian won his second title as coach at Madrid. The other was in 1997.

As the Madrid players' names were read one by one, Beckham walked on to a loud ovation with his three children.

The team travelled later to the Plaza de Cibeles in the city centre as is customary to celebrate.

"This championship is not so much a difficult one, it was almost a miraculous one because we came from so far behind Barcelona to win," Capello said.

Barcelona could only watch from the Nou Estadi as Madrid ended its hopes of a third straight league title.

"We were inconsistent all season ... and we're all aware that it's the players who are responsible," Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said. "I've always said that who wins this league deserves it."

Lionel Messi scored two goals and set up Carles Puyol for another. Ronaldinho curled in a free kick for his 21st goal of the season before Gianluca Zambrotta scored in injury time as Barcelona finished without a trophy for the first time in three seasons.

Tobias Grahn scored in the 83rd for Gimnastic.

Villarreal clinched a UEFA Cup place and knocked Sevilla out of contention for its first league title since 1946 with a 1-0 win.

Fabrizio Fuentes headed in the winning goal in the 51st as Villarreal finished fifth, while Sevilla - which play Getafe in the Copa del Rey final Saturday - finished third with 71 points.

Diego Milito's 23rd goal of the season secured Zaragoza a 1-1 draw with Recreativo Huelva and the final UEFA Cup qualifying place. Milito scored in the 75th, while Javi Guerrero had given the hosts the lead in the third.

Atletico Madrid finished seventh and missed out on a first European berth in seven years despite beating Osasuna 2-1 on goals from Maxi Rodriguez and an own-goal from Nacho Monreal. Savo Milosevic scored for Osasuna.

Athletic Bilbao avoided its first relegation from Spain's top soccer league with a 2-0 win over Levante.

An own-goal from defender Jose Manuel Serrano in the 60th minute and a header from Igor Gabilondo in the 77th was enough to guarantee that Athletic remained one of three teams to never play lower than the top league. Madrid and Barcelona are the others.

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