Football: Barcelona break the hearts of Deportivo: Phil Davison reports from Madrid on Spain's final day of drama

Click to follow
The Independent Online
IN A 'Roy Of The Rovers' finish to the Spanish championship, Barcelona snatched their fourth successive title on Saturday night and broke the heart of most of Spain. Johan Cruyff's goalscoring machine took the title on goal difference with a 5-2 victory over Seville, while little Deportivo La Coruna saw their dream evaporate in a goalless draw at home to Valencia.

With both matches broadcast live on TV and radio stations, almost the entire nation outside Barcelona had been willing the plucky Galician side to win. In the end, as Barcelona exploded in an orgy of cava champagne and fireworks, La Coruna, Galicia and much of Spain broke into tears. TV viewers wept as young Deportivo fans collapsed in grief on their Riazor stadium pitch.

Going into the final day one point ahead, all Deportivo had to do was score one point more than Barca but in the end both sides finished the 38- game season on 56 points. Barca had been so far ahead on goal difference that goals had become irrelevant. They finished 13 goals better off than their rivals. It was the third season in a row that Barcelona had pinched the title on the final day.

Deportivo had led for six months, with Barcelona nosing ahead only 20 minutes from the end of Saturday's simultaneous games by taking a 3-2 lead over Seville after twice going behind.

With the buzz from thousands of transistor radios and portable TVs getting the message to the Deportivo players, they knew from the roars that Seville had taken the lead twice in the first half. That may have been their undoing. They also knew from the buzz that went round the Riazor stadium that Barca had come back to lead 3-2, 4-2, 5-2. A single magic moment from the Brazilian Romario - his 30th of the season to give him the top scorer's award - had put them in the title position 20 minutes from time with their third goal. Still, all Deportivo had to do was score one.

Panic set in as they threw everyone but their keeper Liano at a packed Valencia defence. In the flap, they never really looked like scoring. Then, in the final minute, fate stepped in, in the form of an outstretched Valencian leg that pulled down Deportivo's Nando inside the box.

As Deportivo fans got on their knees on the terraces or in front of their seats, their Brazilian striker Bebeto, once their ace penalty scorer, made himself scarce. He had cracked at previous key moments.

Up stepped the stylish Serbian sweeper, Miroslav Djukic, head held high, Cantona-style, a vision of coolness. Or was he? Barcelona fans, holding their breath in front of portable TVs, noted Djukic seemed to be holding his, too. He heaved his shoulders to expel air. Utopia was 11 metres away but as Cruyff said later, 'At times like that, those 11 metres seem like 110.'

Djukic hit the ball to Jose Gonzalez's right but it was too far from the post and lacking in pace. Gonzalez clutched the ball like a fireman saving a baby.

A first-half hat-trick by Joao Pinto helped Benfica beat Sporting Lisbon 6-3, an away victory which opens Benfica's way to the Portuguese title. With four games to go Benfica have taken 49 points from 30 games and extended their lead over second placed Sporting to three points.