By Rik Sharma
BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona beat Levante 1-0 on Saturday to win their 26th La Liga title, while third place Real Madrid fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat by Rayo Vallecano on Sunday as their dismal season drags on.
Here are five talking points from the weekend’s La Liga action.
10 FORNUMBER 10
Lionel Messi’s second-half goal earned Barcelona a narrow win over Levante which sealed their eighth La Liga triumph in the last 11 years.
The Argentine maestro has won an astonishing 10 league titles since making his debut in 2004.
Barcelona have dominated Spanish football over the past decade and Messi’s presence has ensured that.
“Obviously Messi is at the core of all of this,” said Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde. “It’s been an era marked by success in La Liga for the club.
“Coaches and players have come, gone and contributed but if there has to be one name above the rest, it’s Leo’s.”
Six points from safety with three games to go, Rayo Vallecano’s survival hopes are slim.
However, the minnows from Vallecas achieved an historic victory Real Madrid on Sunday, their first in La Liga since 1997.
Adrian Embarba’s penalty made the difference and Rayo fans and players celebrated wildly at fulltime, as much for getting one over their illustrious neighbours as the potential boost to their bid to avoid the drop.
“I dreamt once that I would never beat Real Madrid in my entire life but now we have done it I can die happy,” said thrilled coach Paco Jemez.
Just like in the Premier League, it seems that no side is good enough to step up and grab fourth place and qualification for next season’s Champions League.
The teams in fourth, fifth and sixth, Getafe, Sevilla and Valencia respectively, all played on Sunday – and all lost.
After Valencia fell 1-0 at home to Eibar, Sevilla had the chance to impose themselves on the race but lost 1-0 at Girona, a team that had not won at home since October.
With both of them beaten, it was down to Getafe to take control but they managed to lose 2-1 at Real Sociedad. Only three points separate the three teams.
NO BENZEMA, NO HOPE
Zinedine Zidane was left exasperated with his Real Madrid side after their defeat at Rayo.
The French coach was unusually expressive in his dismay with the team’s performance, not shielding his players after their lifeless outing.
“We didn’t even create chances, we did nothing well. We have to all be angry with our performance,” said Zidane. “I am angry because we gave an awful image of ourselves.”
Madrid were missing their key player this season, Karim Benzema. The striker has scored each of the club’s last eight goals.
The fact that Benzema is La Liga’s second top goalscorer on 21, level with Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, shows how he is the anomaly at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Getafe coach Jose Bordalas was sent off for his angry reaction after two potential penalties for his side were waved away.
It showed that having video assistant referees available isn’t going to stop controversies, with the VAR not deeming fouls on Hugo Duro and Jaime Mata obvious enough to alert the referee.
“It’s clear Getafe can’t be where they are (fourth place),” said an angry Bordalas, who may be further punished for his comments.
(Reporting by Rik Sharma; Editing by Christian Radnedge)