Real Madrid have been crowned La Liga champions for the first time in three years after securing a 2-1 victory over Villarreal at an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Thursday night.
Karim Benzema emerged as the difference maker as he netted a brace to fire the Madrid giants to their 34th Spanish title.
The Frenchman opened the scoring with a low strike in the 29th minute before doubling the hosts’ lead with a retaken penalty in the 76th minute.
The spot-kick was originally taken by Sergio Ramos, who attempted to pass it to Benzema to finish. However, the effort was disallowed because the striker ran into the box before the referee even blew his whistle.
Substitute Vicente Iborra pulled one back for Villarreal with a powerful header in the 86th minute, after which a flurry of attempts to find the equaliser was easily denied by Thibaut Courtois.
Marco Asensio also had a goal disallowed by VAR in stoppage time but Los Blancos were hardly bothered as they finished the game as title winners.
The win marks Real Madrid‘s tenth consecutive victory since Spanish football returned last month.
They will head into their final match of the season this weekend with a commanding seven-point lead over second-placed Barcelona, who suffered a 1-2 loss to Osasuna last night.
Zinedine Zidane once again helps Real Madrid end Barcelona’s La Liga dominance
Real Madrid have transformed into a very different team since Zinedine Zidane returned for his second tenure as the club’s manager in March last year.
The Frenchman already had quite the reputation to maintain, having led the side to a La Liga title and three consecutive UEFA Champions League trophies, among many others, in his first stint as manager.
Los Blancos had predominantly finished behind Barcelona in the La Liga title races of the last decade, with this being only their third league title in the previous nine seasons.
They also recorded consecutive third-place finishes since their previous domestic title, which was during Zidane’s first tenure.
The 1998 World Cup winner looked determined to reclaim Real Madrid’s place in the Spanish top flight this season but a series of inconsistent displays saw them sit a couple of points behind Barcelona before all footballing activity was suspended in March.
Zinedine Zidane had presumably identified the Madrid giants’ shortcomings during the lockdown as the team appeared to be much more compact and well-balanced after the break.
The Frenchman’s acute observations, his man-management skills, his ability to instil tactical discipline in the team and his players’ trust in him, ultimately served as the key factors that helped the side sustain their title charge in the business end of the campaign.
Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos paid tribute to his manager after the win, saying:
“Everything Zidane touches turns into gold. We believe in him and his work. He’s the one who has to make the difference, he’s a person who trusts players, and few do. We hope he stays here for a very long time, he is unique.”
An elated Zinedine Zidane, who lifted his 11th title as Real Madrid manager, said:
“Today is one of the best days for me as a professional and after everything that happened with the three-month break, it’s fantastic what we’ve achieved. It’s strange for everyone.
“We can’t control the situation. We would have loved to have been with the supporters and gone to the Cibeles Fountain and hopefully that can happen further down the line, but for the question of health it can’t happen.”
“I’m sure the Real Madrid supporters are celebrating happily at home seeing their team win the league again.”
Here are the best Twitter reactions to Los Blancos’ title win: