Cristiano Ronaldo grabbed his 54th goal of the season as Real Madrid moved closer to a 32nd La Liga title with a 2-1 win at Barcelona for whom Lionel Messi was reduced to a bit-part role.
“It was an important goal but the win for the team is more important, we have four matches left and with the seven-point gap [over Barcelona] we are in a comfortable position,” Ronaldo said.
The Portuguese star later tweeted: “Mission accomplished.”
Ronaldo finished a Mesut Ozil pass from a tight angle on 73 minutes after rounding Victor Valdes in the Barca goal. Sami Khedira had put Madrid ahead before substitute Alexis Sanchez leveled for Barca to give the Nou Camp faithful — who had seen their champions crush their bitter rivals 5-1 in the same fixture last year — a degree of hope.
The goal also means Ronaldo moves one ahead of Messi on 42 league goals in the battle to be pichichi, La Liga’s top goal-scorer.
On the night, Ronaldo was far more dangerous than Messi, with six attempts at goal to Messi’s one, a statistic that illustrated the Argentine’s miserable evening.
Ronaldo’s winner gave Madrid their first league win over Barcelona in four years and, barring a major stumble, ensured the title will return to the Santiago Bernabeu for the first time since 2008. It will also end Barcelona’s three-year grip on the title.
For Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, it was his first win at Camp Nou with Madrid and only his second triumph in 11 attempts against the Catalans.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola hailed Real Madrid as the new champions.
“I congratulate Real Madrid for their victory and also for their league title, which I have no doubt they have clinched tonight,” the Barcelona coach said.
Guardiola also defended his decision to start the game with Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas on the bench.
“I selected the team which I thought had the best chance to defeat Madrid and, anyway, the losers are always wrong,” Guardiola said.
“Now we have to look to the future,” he said.