Madrid, Jul 16 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid clinched their 34th Spanish-league title with a 2-1 victory here Thursday over Villarreal, securing the crown in style by recording their 10th straight win since the resumption of the coronavirus-interrupted season.
Karim Benzema scored both goals for the Blancos in the behind-closed-doors contest at Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium, notching the opener in the first half and then converting from the penalty spot after the intermission.
Villarreal pulled one back in the 83rd minute on a goal by Vicente Iborra.
It was fitting that Benzema would put the finishing touches on Real Madrid’s march to the LaLiga title, since the Frenchman has enjoyed a remarkable season in 2019-2020 that has put him in the running for a first-ever Ballon D’Or.
His opening goal came in the 29th minute after a mistake by Villarreal defender Sofian Chakla, who had a pass intercepted by Real Madrid’s Casemiro near midfield.
Luka Modric proceeded to take possession as Villarreal was scrambling to get back into position defensively, dribbled toward goal and passed off to Benzema, whose shot went through the legs of goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo and into the back of the net.
With that score, league-leading Real Madrid had the LaLiga crown in their grasp because second-place arch-rival FC Barcelona, who needed a win and a Blancos draw or loss to remain in the title chase, were down 1-0 at that juncture to Osasuna on Thursday at Camp Nou.
In the second half, Villarreal head coach Javier Calleja looked to take more possession of the ball by opting for a five-man midfield with the insertion of veteran Bruno Soriano, who had returned to LaLiga last month after a three-year battle with injuries.
A rocky stretch then ensued for Real Madrid and their fans watching at home.
First, at Camp Nou, Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scored the equalizer for the Catalans in the 62nd minute with a brilliant long-range free kick.
Then Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was kneed accidentally in the head by Xavi Quintilla, although the star Belgian goalie stayed in the game after receiving treatment from the team doctor.
But fortune smiled once again on the Blancos a few minutes later when team captain Sergio Ramos stole the ball and then won a penalty when he was taken down by Chakla at the edge of the area.
Ramos surprisingly was sent out to attempt the penalty even though Benzema is in a battle with Messi to be LaLiga’s top scorer this season.
But instead of taking the shot, the Spaniard ran his cleats over the ball and left it for the Frenchman, although the referee ruled the penalty had to be taken again because Benzema had entered the area too soon.
Finally, on the second try, Benzema slotted his shot into the bottom-left corner in the 77th minute for his 21st goal of the season, two behind Messi.
Real Madrid appeared to have the match – and the title – well in hand, although Villarreal refused to go away and put a scare into the home team down the stretch.
Iborra got his team on the board by scoring on a phenomenal header off a cross from Mario. Then, with time winding down in second-half injury time, Chakla had a chance for a stunning equalizer but fired the ball high over the crossbar and into the empty seats.
Meanwhile, in Barcelona, the home team ended up stumbling to a 2-1 loss to Osasuna when the visiting squad’s Roberto Torres scored the winner four minutes into second-half injury time.
Real Madrid, who extended their record haul of LaLiga crowns to 34 – eight more than Barcelona, the two-time title holders – were a deserving champion after winning all 10 games following the resumption of the LaLiga season early last month.
Afterward, the players celebrated by tossing head coach Zinedine Zidane up in the air and catching him several times.