Sport Soccer

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Atletico Madrid claim La Liga in Nou Camp title decider

Barcelona 1 Atletico Madrid 1

Atletico players celebrate after winning the Spanish League title at the Camp Nou stadium
Atletico players celebrate after winning the Spanish League title at the Camp Nou stadium
Atletico Madrid's Diego Godin (obscured) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Barcelona at the Camp Nou
Atletico teammates celebrate after scoring during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou
Atletico's Diego Godin celebrates with team mates after scoring his side's goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou
Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez celebrates his goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish First Division soccer match at the Nou Camp
Barcelona's Alexis Sanchez is congratulated by teammates after scoring against Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid completed the first part of a potential double when the claimed La Liga with a 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Nou Camp.

Diego Simeone’s men overcame injuries and the concession of a first-half goal to claim their first league title in 18 years and will have their sights set on neighbours Real to complete the most stunning season in the club’s history.

Atletico Madrid arrived knowing that avoiding defeat would be enough to claim a first domestic title in 18 years a week ahead of an all-Madrid Champions League final in Lisbon.

It began badly for Atletico when both Diego Costa and Arda Turan succumbed to injury early on, with Costa now a major doubt for next week after pulling up with a hamstring injury.

For the 477 Atletico fans among the 98,000 spectators in the crowd it was uncomfortable viewing, and it was about to get even worse.

Soon after the half-hour mark, the home side eased the tensions for the majority inside the famous ground with a goal worthy of the occasion.

Full-back Dani Alves passed back to Cesc Fabregas 30-yards out from the Atletico goals. The former Arsenal midfielder looked up and chipped the ball into the box for Alexis but the Chilean had plenty to do with close attentions of the Madrid defence. With his back to goal on the right hand side of the area, he spun his man and flashed a shot that gave Thibaut Courtois no chance.

The home side were in full voice as both teams made their way down the tunnel at the interval, but whatever was said in the Madrid changing room seemed to have an immediate effect.

Former Barcelona striker David Villa was unfortunate not to draw the sides level when his effort hit the woodwork, but minutes later they were rewarded for their pressure.

Diego Godin’s powerful header was the breakthrough they required, though the marking by the Catalans defence was rather suspect.

The goal swung the pendulum back in favour of Simeone’s side with the game on a knife-edge.

Sergio Busquets was reluctantly withdrawn through injury, though Tato Martino was able to throw Neymar into the fray with less than half an hour remaining to try to rescue the game and the Catalans season. He would have little impact on proceedings however, similar to the surprisingly quiet Leom Messi.

Atletico were forced into retreating deep and looked to have paid the price when Messi smashed the ball into the net, but his effort was correctly ruled offside by officials.

A close call for the visitors as the home crowd watched in disbelief.

Try as they might, Martino’s men lacked the guile to break down a well-organised defence and a well-hit shot from Alves was as close as they came to getting the all-important winner.

Breaking the Barca-Real stranglehold of Spain for the first time since 2004, the title was just rewards for what has been an incredible season for the surprise package of Europe.

In Barcelona the inquest will begin with Martino already under pressure in the hotseat, while for Atletico there is little time to bask in the glory.

A place in history beckons for Los Rojiblancos and one of the most coveted managers in world football.

Online Editors

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