Barça won La Liga 2014/15 tonight after Leo Messi’s 65th minute goal was enough to beat Atlético Madrid 0-1 at the Calderón. real Madrid’s 1-4 victory at Espanyol counted for nothing as Barça’s win takes the new Champions to 93 points, four clear of Madrid with just one more game to play. It is Barça’s 23rd league title and a splendid season can get even better if Barça can go on to win the finals of the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
There was no place finally for Luis Suárez, either in the starting XI or on the bench, so Pedro was brought into the attack. The Uruguayan may have been missed, especially in the first half, but the Canarian gave a good hard-working performance and in the end he would play a vital role in Messi’s goal.
Atlético began strongly and came close to opening the scoring in the 8th minute after a stylish back-heel from Arda Turan led to Barça conceding a corner. Koke sent an inswinger to the near post and Gimenez’s flicked header forced Bravo into a brilliant diving save. The Barça keeper, who has still only conceded 19 goals this season, demonstrated his superb reflexes again with an even better save a couple of minutes later, but this time Griezmann was offside when he shot.
onceAtlético’s initial ten-minute rush had passed , Barça settled into controlling the game. Messi shot straight at Oblak in the 12th minute, then a minute later Alves crossed from the right and the Atlético keeper was again well placed to stop Messi’s header. Messi kept trying but he fired over after a good counter involving Rakitic, Pedro and Neymar. Then in the 20th minute Pedro’s cross found Messi but the Argentinian’s goalbound header struck Juanfran on the arm. Appeals for a penalty were ignored by referee Undiano Mallenco who correctly saw the handball as unintentional.
Barça were now generally in control except for the occasional misplaced pass such as in the 26th minute Rakitic cleared poorly to Gabi who fired wide from 25 yards. Atlético’s defence played deeper than in the Copa del Rey game at the Calderón which meant Barça needed to look for ways through around the edge of the box. Alves was again very active in attack and in the 31st minute broke in from the right only to have his shirt pulled by Godin. For a moment it looked like a penalty as Alves fell well inside the area but Undiano gave the free-kick inches outside the box. Despite the angle Messi went for goal with the free-kick and saw his shot skim off the top of the crossbar.
It was the closest that Barça would come in a goalless first half though Alves’s dipping drive from 25 yards produced another decent save from Oblak. News that the Espanyol- Madrid match was also 0-0 at half-time meant if the scores remained the same Barça would be champions.
Barça were looking pretty solid and the second half began with Luis Enrique’s men again looking in control. However, three quick attempts on goal from Atlético from Griezmann, Godin and Torres put Barça on alert though only the Torres’s toe-poke was on target and that was straight at Bravo.
Around the hour mark news of Madrid’s first goal came in, which for the moment meant La Liga would go to the final game. However, it took just five minutes for Barça to correct the situation and of course it was Messi who would grab the vital goal. The move began with Jordi Alba on the left, Alba found Messi on the edge of the area and the Argentinian maestro played an exchange of passes with Pedro and despite being surrounded by defenders he found space to control and fire his shot through the gap and inside the far post.
Atlético coach Diego Simeone reacted by bringing on Raul Garcia and then Mandzukic but by taking off Arda and Mario he made it easier for Barça to control the midfield. Neymar should have scored after good work from Rakitic and Messi but the Brazilian leant back too much and sent his shot well over. After a run of seven games scoring the Brazilian couldn’t make the scoresheet today.
News then came in of Espanyol’s equalizer and the title looked even closer. Then Pedro pulled his shot wide after a neat step-over and Madrid went back in front. There were a nervous last ten minutes as Luis Enrique brought on Mathieu and Xavi. First Mascherano blocked Koke’s shot then Siquiera fired a terrific shot from the left that flew narrowly over. Atlético’s final attempt came with another Godin header that went straight at Bravo and there was time at the other end for Messi to come close with a clever free-kick though Oblak reacted well to save. The game ended with some not-so-impressive time-wasting and argy-bargy but that should take nothing away from Barça’s superb achievement.
Few gave us much chance over Christmas and the New Year but the players have responded magnificently with a run of eighteen wins and just one draw and one defeat in the league since the loss at Real Sociedad. The 23rd league is Barça’s fifth in the last seven seasons, the seventh in the last eleven, a fact which demonstrates more than anything Barça’s recent dominance in spanish football.
Xavi Hernández wins his eighth league title and having played a somewhat reduced role, he may now decide not to stick around to try for another. Other players win their first Liga with the most important this season being, Neymar, Suárez, Rakitic Bravo, Mathieu and Rafinha. It is also the first league and first title for Luis Enrique. Press speculation continues over whether or not he will remain as Barça’s coach next season, and seeing him stay on the sidelines as the players celebrated the title makes one wonder what is in the back of his mind. The future will tell, now it’s time to celebrate an excellent achievement.
Campeones, campeones, oé oé oé!!!
Atlético: Oblak; Juanfran, Giménez, Godín, Siqueira; Arda (Mandzukic m72), Gabi, Mario (Raul Garcia m68), Koke; Griezmann, Torres (Saul m80).
Barça: Bravo 7.5; Alves 7, Piqué 7.5, Mascherano 6.5 (Mathieu m80, 6), Alba 7; Rakitic 7 (Rafinha m87, –), Busquets 6.5, Iniesta 6 (Xavi m81, 6.5); Pedro 7.5, Messi 8, Neymar 7.5.
Goal: m65 Messi 0-1.
Yellow cards: m29 Pedro, m31 Godin, m53 Koke, m75 Gabi, m89 Gimenez, m92 Neymar, m94 Messi, m94 Siquiera.