Real retain title in thrilling finale

Madrid, May 5:

Real Madrid were crowned Spanish champions for the 31st time on Sunday after defeating Osasuna 2-1 after scoring twice in a sensational final three minutes.

Real were heading for defeat after Francisco Punal scored an 83rd minute penalty against ten men Real, who had Fabio Cannavaro sent off, but the champions responded with Arjen Robben and Gonzalo Higuain scoring in the dying minutes.

Real retain the championship with three games left to play and can go into Wednesday’s home match with arch rivals Barcelona in relaxed mood. After watching Barcelona win successive titles Real have now followed suit and captain Raul Gonzalez is likely to lift the championship trophy on Wednesday. It is a first league title for Real coach Bernd Schuster in his maiden season after taking over from the sacked Fabio Capello in the summer.

Barcelona stayed within four points of second-placed Villarreal, who won 2-0 against Getafe. Barca had failed to score in their last four matches but scored three times against Valencia in the opening quarter hour. Lionel Messi converted a penalty on five minutes before Xavi (8) and Thierry Henry (14) struck to wrap up the game early on. Henry added a second and Bojan Krkic grabbed a brace as Valencia fell apart. Valencia are only two points from safety and have a six-pointer against rivals Real Zaragoza, one point below.

Earlier, a brace from Turkish international Nihat helped Villarreal sink Getafe and they are now in the driving seat to finish second.

Elsewhere, Sevilla closed to within three points of the final Champions League spot with a 2-0 home win over Valladolid. Racing are also in the Champions League frame after coming from two goals down to defeat Real Murcia 3-2 and move two points behind Atletico in fourth. Murcia’s defeat means they join Levante in being relegated from the top-flight.