Tue, May 06, 2008 - Page 20 News List

LFP: Late goals spark Real title celebrations

TRIUMPHDespite Fabio Cannavaro’s ejection 20 seconds into the second half, the reigning Spanish champions retained their title with a win in Pamplona

AP , MADRID

Real Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez kisses the Cibeles statue to celebrate winning the Spanish league championship in Madrid early yesterday. Real won a second straight Spanish title despite a stuttering end to the season.

PHOTO: AP

Real Madrid won a record 31st Spanish league title on Sundayas the Spanish champions came from behind to beat Osasuna 2-1.

Substitute Gonzalo Higuain volleyed in the winner in the 89th minute, two minutes after Arjen Robben headed in the equalizer with 10-men Madrid trailing through Francisco Punal’s 83rd-minute penalty.

“It looked like an American sports film in which you have to fight and suffer and we had a nice ending. We are champions,” Real coach Bernd Schuster said. “With one player less it was the moment where we were better. We deserved to win.”

Higuain chested down Sergio Ramos’ short pass to volley home from the right after former Chelsea winger Robben headed in a cross from Fernando Gago from the left to equalize.

Madrid were reduced to 10 in the 46th minute following Fabio Cannavaro’s ejection.

The defending champions now have 78 points — 10 more than second-place Villarreal — and can’t be caught with three games remaining.

An estimated 10,000 Madrid supporters had gathered at the traditional celebration point at Plaza Cibeles in the Spanish capital in anticipation of the Spanish champions’ return. Madrid’s players were flying straight back from Pamplona to partake.

“The plane will be rocking a lot now, it’s going to be a nice party,” Schuster said. “But now we want to get back to Madrid to celebrate with our fans.”

Punal took the penalty after Madrid defender Gabriel Heinze handled inside the area as he leapt to challenge a cross. Punal caught goalkeeper Iker Casillas going the wrong way with his shot into the bottom left of goal.

Madrid threatened early but Javier Saviola was unable to poke Robben’s short pass into the net with defender Miguel Flano appearing to handle the deflected ball.

Osasuna had several free kicks from outside Madrid’s area but couldn’t create a decent scoring chance.

Cannavarro was sent off barely 20 seconds into the second half after picking up a second yellow card.

Madrid needed to win the match to earn the title because Villarreal defeated Getafe 2-0 earlier on Sunday. Nihat Kahveci scored both goals.

Getafe were in control at Villarreal until the 37th minute, when Giuseppe Rossi found Nihat with a pass for an easy goal.

Robert Pires found Nihat alone again on the right side in the 44th and he shot high to score.

Thierry Henry and Bojan Krkic scored two goals each as third-ranked Barcelona snapped a five-game winless streak with a 6-0 rout of Valencia.

Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez scored the other two.

The result left Valencia fighting for La Liga survival.

Also on Sunday, it was:

• Sevilla 2, Valladolid 0

• Racing Santander 3, Murcia 2

• Athletic Bilbao 1, Mallorca 2

• Almeria 1, Real Betis 1

• Levante 1, Espanyol 1.

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