Espanyol hold Real as Barca bag title

Espanyol hold Real as Barca bag title

Catalans clinch fourth league title in five years

Espanyol hold Real as Barca bag title

Real Madrid gifted Barcelona the La Liga title when a second-string side could only draw 1-1 at Espanyol on Saturday to leave Tito Vilanova's leaders seven points clear with their rivals having only two games left.

Jose Mourinho fielded a weakened team with one eye on next Friday's King's Cup final against Atletico Madrid, Real's last chance for major silverware this season, giving the occasion a sense of anti-climax.

Cristian Stuani gave Espanyol the lead after 28 minutes, and although Gonzalo Higuain pulled one back for Real in the 58th it was not enough to stop Barca securing the league trophy. Barcelona, who visit third-placed Atletico Madrid on Sunday, have 88 points with four games left to play. Real have 81 in second having played two matches more than their arch-rivals.

Despite the La Liga crown being at stake, Real started with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Xabi Alonso and Karim Benzema on the bench and mid-table Espanyol, who have little left to play for this season, sniffed the chance for an upset. The game took a turn for the worse for Real when Raphael Varane fell awkwardly as he made a tackle and went down clutching his right knee.

The promising young French defender had to be substituted after 19 minutes, and in the 28th Stuani pounced on a loose ball in the area at a corner to fire the hosts in front.
Espanyol were unlucky to have a second goal ruled out soon after, while Real offered little going forward until Higuain flicked a header inside the far post from Luka Modric's freekick just before the hour mark.

The equaliser came two minutes after Real's leading scorer Ronaldo had entered the fray and the visitors steadily increased the pressure on the Espanyol goal although they rarely looked like finding the winner.

Espanyol had midfielder Victor Sanchez sent off at the end for a dangerous tackle on Higuain, giving Ronaldo a final chance to grab a winner with a freekick, but his attempt was high and wide summing up Real's dismal night. The day's other games all involved clubs fighting to avoid relegation, with Osasuna the only side in the threatened bottom six to win with a 1-0 triumph at home to Getafe.

Depor's seven-match unbeaten run ended at Real Valladolid when Javi Guerra scored with a backheel just after halftime.

The Galicians are two points short of the safety zone and 17th-placed Real Zaragoza, who drew 0-0 at Levante on Friday.

Depor are also a point ahead of regional rivals Celta Vigo in 19th and three in front of basement side Real Mallorca who have 29 points.

Mallorca were pushed closer to the second division when they went down 2-1 at Athletic Bilbao. Bilbao have all but mathematically assured their top-flight status in 14th with 41 points.

Valencia in hunt

Soldado scored twice to keep Valencia in the running for a return to the Champions League next season in a 4-0 victory at Rayo Vallecano on Sunday. The Spain striker netted from the penalty spot after 28 minutes and doubled the lead with a simple tap in from Andres Guardado's pass in the 34th, taking his league tally for the season to 21.

Mexico midfielder Guardado netted at the second attempt midway through the second half, and after Sofiane Feghouli had volleyed against the post, Paraguayan substitute Nelson Haedo Valdez lashed a fourth high into the net on a counter-attack.

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