Tue, Jun 19, 2007 - Page 20 News List

Real Madrid win La LIga title

`VERY DESERVED'Coach Fabio Capello's team went unbeaten over thier last 12 games and clawed back a five-point advantage held by Barcelona and Sevilla

AFP , MADRID

Real Madrid's Fabio Cannavaro celebrates a goal by teammate Mahamadow Diarra during their La Liga match against Real Mallorca in Madrid on Sunday. Real Madrid won 3-1.

PHOTO: AP

Real Madrid captured a record 30th La Liga title on Sunday with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Real Mallorca.

Madrid finished equal at 76 points with bitter rivals Barcelona, who won 5-1 at bottom club Gimnastic Tarragona, but finished ahead of the Catalan club thanks to their better head-to-head record.

"To win we had to suffer. We always seem to have to suffer for our victories, but I'm very happy," Real Madrid coach Fabio Capello said.

The victory also sent David Beckham away to Los Angeles with a league championship medal, although the former England skipper was substituted out before the end of the game.

"It's here and it's very deserved. The people who deserve it most are those who believed in us through the bad times. It's a victory and title for a team that's united and together," Real Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez said.

Real Madrid went unbeaten over their last 12 games of the season and, after dropping to third place in mid-March, clawed back a five-point advantage from both Barcelona and Sevilla.

They only needed to beat Mallorca to claim La Liga, but the visitors' Fernando Varela silenced the 76,000 Real Madrid fans at Santiago Bernabeu -- including film star Tom Cruise and his wife Katie Holmes -- when he found the net after 17 minutes.

A defensive lack of concentration saw Juan Arango go around Sergio Ramos and Michel Salgado failed to cut out the Venezuelan's cross before Varela slotted the ball past Iker Casillas.

Madrid pressed hard and both Raul and Robinho came close to scoring, but Real suffered another blow when Ruud van Nistelrooy, scorer of 26 goals this season, had to be taken off with a hamstring injury after 30 minutes.

Van Nistelrooy's departure meant he will only get a share of the European Golden Boot award with Roma's Francesco Totti.

Varela almost got a second goal after 55 minutes but, with only Casillas to beat, sent the ball wide.

Beckham's four-year career at the Spanish club ended 65 minutes into his last game when he limped off, clearly still feeling the effects of the ankle injury he sustained during England's 3-0 win over Estonia 10 days ago.

He sat glumly in the dugout under the gaze of his wife Victoria, but his disappointment turned to joy as his replacement Jose Antonio Reyes found the net twice.

After only being on the field for three minutes, Reyes side-footed the ball past Mallorca goalkeeper Miguel Angel Moya after Gonzalo Higuain, Van Nistelrooy's replacement, had pulled the ball back from the dead ball line.

Nine minutes from time, Real Madrid finally got their noses in front when the ball glanced off an unlucky Angelos Bassinas after Moya had pushed a Mahamadou Diarra header onto his team mate.

Reyes then crowned Madrid's night with a tremendous left-foot shot two minutes later.

"There have been a lot of bad times this season, but where you finish is more important than how you got there," Reyes said.

Barcelona completed their part of the bargain and then could only hope that Real Madrid would slip up.

Carlos Puyol opened the scoring with a left foot shot from the edge of the six yard box, with the Barca captain hammering home a Lionel Messi pass after 20 minutes.

Messi then added a second after 35 minutes with an exquisite chip from just inside the area.

Ronaldinho made it 3-0 with a direct free kick three minutes later and Messi then got his second of the night five minutes after the break.

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