Real Madrid became La Liga champions after a 2-0 win against Málaga on Sunday. Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema were on target to gift Madrid the title, condemning rivals Barcelona to 2nd place.
Real Madrid could not have asked for a better start to their last match of the season. After just over a minute, Isco pounced on a lost ball from a Málaga defender. He reacted quickly to slip the ball to Cristiano Ronaldo, who was making a run past the defenders.
Ronaldo found himself one on one with Carlos Kameni, so he smartly took the ball past the goalkeeper before easing it into the empty net. The title was suddenly in reaching distance.
Málaga’s initial response was good, with Navas being forced to make a save from a free kick destined for the top corner.
But Ronaldo also managed to get another shot on target which was saved well by Kameni.
It wasn’t until the second half that Madrid would score again to truly put the match out of reach. A thunderous volley by Sergio Ramos from a corner kick delivery was saved at point blank range by Kameni.
The rebound bounced off Varane and fell to Benzema, who poked the ball into the net and took Madrid one step closer to lifting the trophy.
There was some controversy surrounding the goal, as Varane appeared to be offside when the ball reached him. But the officials did not notice, so the goal stood.
With the match nearly decided, Málaga had little to play for and even less motivation to push for goals. A few half chances were created, but nothing too troubling for Navas.
Madrid did not push much harder for a third, either. Some of the substitutes looked lively but for the most part, the team seemed content with looking forward to title celebrations.
The early goal from Madrid changed the attitudes and overall approaches of both teams. Madrid found it easier to hold possession in the middle of the pitch with their midfielders. Then the ball could be advanced gradually with their fullbacks.
They also made the extra effort to play the ball out of the back, allowing the midfielders to drop deeper to get the ball and protect it. Then they could bring the ball forward to Ronaldo and Benzema to form attacks.
Meanwhile, Málaga’s 4-2-3-1 formation facilitated vertical passes along the wings that made it easier for them to counter attack with pace. Sandro Ramírez in particular was excellent at drifting out wide to contribute towards chance creation with his skill.
However, where Málaga struggled was in the final third. They only managed to create a few solid chances, but the finishing from the forwards was not enough to get past Navas.
After the second goal, Málaga were forced to push harder and that allowed them to force more saves out of Navas. But the pressure they were able to build resulted in nothing to be seen on the scoresheet for the hosts.
Real Madrid’s win confirmed that they would be La Liga champions for the 2016-2017 season. This is their 33rd La Liga title but only their first one since 2012.
The capital club have consistently been the best side in the Spanish top flight this season. They have only lost on three occasions and managed to score at least once in every game in a season for the first time in the club’s history.
But now that the league title is wrapped up, Madrid will need to look towards their upcoming Champions League final against Juventus.
It will surely be one of their most challenging matches this season. Zinedine Zidane has done well to motivate his players and keep his team fresh with rotations, so they will be able to bring the best performance possible and fight for one more trophy.