By JUSTIN FERGUSON
For the last decade, the title in La Liga has gone back and forth between Spain’s longtime powerhouses, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
On the final weekend of the 2013-14 season, with two of their top players off with injuries, Atletico Madrid snapped the Clasico rivals’ streak thanks to a comeback result at defending champions Barcelona.
Atletico’s Diego Costa and Arda Turan both left a physical battle at Camp Nou with first-half injuries, and Barcelona added to the visitors’ trouble with a fantastic tight-angle goal from Alexis Sanchez. Barcelona had control of the title with the one-goal lead, but Atletico came through with a equalizing header from Diego Godin early in the second half. The defending champions were unable to find a match-winner against Thibaut Courtois and the Atletico defense, who stood tall to earn their club its first La Liga title since 1996 and keep the dreams of an incredible double alive.
In England, Arsenal also came from behind to end a title drought of their own in a dramatic 3-2 FA Cup Final victory against Hull City at Wembley Stadium. The Gunners had gone nine years without a major title, and they appeared to be in line for another disappointment after underdogs Hull went up 2-0 in the opening eight minutes of the match. But Santi Cazorla’s excellent first-half free kick and Laurent Koscielny’s second-half equalizer paved the way for extra time at Wembley, where Aaron Ramsey finished a picture-perfect sequence for Arsenal with a 109th-minute title-winning goal.
Here is a closer look at all the weekend’s action from the top leagues in Europe:
Third-place Real Madrid prepared for next weekend’s Champions League Final against new domestic champions Atletico Madrid with a 3-1 home win against Espanyol. Star winger Cristiano Ronaldo was scratched from the lineup just before the game for Real Madrid, who scored all three of their goals in the second half to earn their first win since beating Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals. Ronaldo’s injury concerns overshadowed Los Blancos’ second-half performance, which included a goal from fellow star Gareth Bale and a quickfire brace from substitute forward Alvaro Morata.
A 44th-minute own goal by Stefan Mitrovic condemned Real Valladolid to relegation while confirming Granada’s safety in a 1-0 decision at the Estadio Nuevo Jose Zorilla on Sunday. Valladolid defender Mitrovic was unlucky to play the ball past his own goalkeeper shortly before the halftime whistle, and that was enough to earn Granada a much-needed win on the final day of the La Liga season. Roberto came through with four saves for Granada, including a late stop of a close-range shot from Yacine Brahimi.
Here are the results from this weekend’s La Liga action:
Malaga 1, Levante 0
Real Madrid 3, Espanyol 1
Barcelona 1, Atletico Madrid 1
Valencia 2, Celta Vigo 1
Villarreal 2, Real Sociedad 1
Almeria 0, Athletic Bilbao 0
Osasuna 2, Real Betis 1
Getafe 2, Rayo Vallecano 1
Granada 1, Real Valladolid 0
Sevilla 3, Elche 1
Bayern Munich needed extra time Saturday to put away rivals Borussia Dortmund 2-0 and repeat as German Cup champions at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. After a back-and-forth 90 minutes and first half of extra time, Arjen Robben finally broke the deadlock for Bayern with a goal off a mistake from Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Weidenfeller. Robben missed a chance to put the match out of reach late, but teammate Thomas Muller put the nail in the coffin in stoppage time with the second goal for the German champions.
On Sunday, former giants Hamburg preserved their lengthy streak of first-division appearances in the Bundesliga with a 1-1 playoff draw against Greuther Furth. The two sides played out a scoreless draw at the Imtech Arena in the first leg, and Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s 14th-minute header kept Hamburg up thanks to the away-goals rule. Stephan Furstner scored an equalizer for Greuther Furth early in the second half, but they could not get the extra goal they needed against Hamburg goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny.
Alessio Cerci missed a last-second penalty at Fiorentina on Sunday, giving Torino a 2-2 draw that will keep them out of next season’s Europa League. A quiet first half turned into a dramatic second half at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, where Fiorentina’s Giuseppe Rossi and Ante Rebic traded goals with Torino’s Marcelo Larrondo and Jasmin Kurtic. Facundo Roncaglia fouled Paulo Barreto to give Torino a lifeline, but Cerci’s spot kick was saved by Antonio Rosati to put the final Europa League spot in question for Serie A.
Parma took advantage of Torino’s draw and jumped to sixth place with a 2-0 home win against Livorno. The drama came late for Parma, who grabbed goals in the 80th and 82nd minute from Brazilian forward Amauri against their cellar-dwelling visitors. Amauri’s goals came before Torino’s equalizing goal at Fiorentina, but the home fans were relieved to hear Cerci’s penalty was saved at the death to put Parma through to European competition on the final day of the Serie A season.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Serie A action:
Udinese 3, Sampdoria 3
Catania 2, Atalanta 1
Genoa 1, AS Roma 0
Juventus 3, Cagliari 0
AC Milan 2, Sassuolo 1
Chievo Verona 2, Inter Milan 1
Fiorentina 2, Torino 2
Lazio 1, Bologna 0
Napoli 5, Chievo Verona 1
Parma 2, Livorno 0
Despite falling behind early on a Jeremie Aliadiere goal, third-place Lille responded well to earn a 4-1 road win against Lorient and a spot in next season’s Champions League competition. Salomon Kalou equalized for Lille just after the half-hour mark, and he combined with Nolan Roux to put their squad on the way to a Top-3 finish above late-charging Saint Etienne. Gregory Bourillon put in an own goal for Lorient in stoppage time to cap the dominant Lille victory.
Here are the results from this weekend’s Ligue 1 action:
AS Monaco 1, Bordeaux 1
Bastia 0, Nantes 0
Lille 4, Lorient 1
Marseille 1, Guingamp 0
Lyon 1, Nice 0
Paris Saint-Germain 4, Montpellier 0
Evian Thonon Gaillard 3, Sochaux 0
Saint Etienne 3, AC Ajaccio 1
Stade Rennes 3, Stade de Reims 1
Toulouse 3, Valenciennes 1
What did you think of this weekend’s European league action? What are your thoughts on Atletico Madrid’s La Liga-winning performance? Who do you see winning next weekend’s Champions League final? Impressed with Arsenal’s comeback in the FA Cup Final?
Share your thoughts below.
Someone in the BeIN preview show said that Barcelona’s biggest weakness was on corner kicks, and that it could come down to that.
Villarreal snuck into Europe by defeating Real Sociedad in San Sebastian, a tough place to play. Heck of a season for the newly-promoted team.