Barça survive Seville fightback to stay on top in title tussle
Monday 10 May 2010
Ninety-six points for Barcelona, 95 for Real Madrid and just 90 minutes left. The countdown to the climax of the most extraordinary season in recent La Liga history begins today with only one of next weekend's final ten final matches in Spain having nothing riding on it.
Nine fixtures will decide relegation – no-one is down yet – confirm who plays in Europe next season, and hand the league title to either challengers Real Madrid or the holders Barcelona, whose players celebrated after their 3-2 victory over Seville on Saturday as if had already won the league.
"I will be making sure they don't believe they are already champions," said Barcelona manager Josep Guardiola. "There is still a lot to sweat for and an awful lot of running to be done, I know Javier Clemente [manager of Barça's last opponents Valladolid] and they will make it very difficult for us."
Valladolid go into that final fixture needing the points to avoid relegation and Real Madrid's rivals on the last day, Malaga, are in the same position. There may be an obscene 28-point gap between the top team and third place but the league as a whole has still produced more drama than ever before.
For 47 minutes on Saturday, Barcelona had the league won. They went 2-0 up against Seville thanks to Leo Messi's 32nd league goal of the season and a Bojan Krikic effort while Real Madrid limped down the tunnel at half-time 1-1 with Athletic Bilbao.
Pedro added a third, meaning for the second week running Barcelona's three diminutive home-grown strikers had all started and scored while Zlatan Ibrahimovic reclined his slightly more expansive and much more expensive frame on the Barça bench. The biggest signing in Barcelona's history looks like finishing up as luxury substitute at the Camp Nou.
The most expensive signing in Real Madrid's history – Ronaldo – looks set to finish the season with nothing, despite scoring 25 goals in his first campaign and despite Madrid breaking their record all-time points haul. Both Barça and Madrid have picked up more points than ever before but for one of them it will not be enough to win the league.
Ronaldo had put Real Madird ahead against Bilbao with a penalty for handball against Fernando Amorebieta for which the central defender was harshly sent-off. Fran Yeste equalised but Real ran riot in the second half with goals from Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Marcelo.
Meanwhile in the Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville were coming back against Barcelona with goals from Freddie Kanoute and Luis Fabiano. But Barça held on to the points leaving themselves with a simple task – match Real Madrid's result against Malaga.
Two late goals from Francesco Totti enabled Roma to take the race for the Serie A title to the final weekend as they hit back to beat Cagliari yesterday.
With leaders Internazionale edging Chievo 4-3, Roma had to beat the Sardinians at the Stadio Olimpico to prolong the battle for the Scudetto. And when Andrea Lazzari powered home a free-kick after 73 minutes it was looking bleak for the home side. But Totti's neat turn and shot dragged them level before he then slotted home an 83rd-minute penalty to hand Roma the victory.
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