In an intense night of football, La Liga played out a dramatic final matchday which confirmed the final relegation spot.
“Third name on the team-sheet”
Alavés 0-5 Barcelona
“If we don’t react and make changes we will not beat Napoli,” was Leo Messi’s rallying call after his side’s humiliating loss to Osasuna a few days ago. And judging by their performance against Alavés, changed had indeed been made.
Of course Alavés aren’t the best side to measure the Blaugrana’s pure quality by, given their own woes this season, but it was notable just how lively and intense Barcelona were. It was a far cry from the vast majority of their games since the restart and key to it all was Riqui Puig.
The young Catalan played in a midfield three with Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal and he absolutely ran the show. At the age of just 20 he was fundamental to all of Barcelona’s play, looking every inch a young Iniesta gliding about the middle of the park, linking with team-mates and playing dangerous passes in the final third – including an impressive two assists – which is something the Blaugrana have struggled with.
Obviously Messi stole the headlines with a superb brace (all but confirming his seventh Pichichi trophy) and an assist that broke Xavi’s record for the most assists in a single La Liga season, but the headline story was Riqui Puig. The Catalan is a young midfield genius who is ready to take centre-stage for the Blaugrana next season. Forget spending tens of millions on a new recruit, just give Riqui Puig the no. 8 shirt and pencil him in as third name on the team sheet. He’ll deliver the midfield magnificence Barcelona need.
“Going down swinging”
Leganés 2-2 Real Madrid
Los Blancos were crowned champions and so came into their match at Butarque with a wholly relaxed energy and it showed. Leganés, meanwhile, were in full desperation mode. They needed a win to ensure their survival and went hammer and tongs to try and get it.
Madrid were on the back foot for the vast majority of the match and were hanging on for the most part. They took the lead through a lovely header from Sergio Ramos but Leganés wouldn’t be denied and equalised with a sensational strike from Bryan Gil.
Then Madrid took the lead again in the second-half with a wonderful goal from Marco Asensio, but again Leganés roared back and Roger Assalé danced around the Madrid defenders and slammed home a second equaliser.
From then it was all Leganés. They came flying at Madrid over and over again yet they just couldn’t find a goal. Losing Youssef En-Nesyri in January and Martin Braithwaite in March were dangerous blows at the time, but in the end they turned out to be fatal to Leganés. Those goalscorers could have made the difference and kept them up.
Sure, under Javier Aguirré they put up one hell of a fight (they won three of their last five and kept four straight clean sheets coming into the final day’s play) and they sure went down swinging at Butarque, being the only side to take points off Real Madrid since La Liga restarted, but even that wasn’t enough. What a way to go, though!
The rest of tonight’s La Liga action:
- Villarreal 4-0 Eibar: Santi Cazorla and Bruno Soriano bade farewell to The Yellow Submarine by masterminding a final day thrashing of Eibar, leaving the field to a guard of honour from both sides.
- Valladolid 2-0 Real Betis: Valladolid eased their way to victory in this lower-mid-table battle. Betis survive but look a shadow of the side they so often promise to be.
- Atlético Madrid 1-1 Real Sociedad: Atleti took the lead early and then tried to hold it, however much to their surprise a weakened La Real roared back at the end and equalised to qualify for the Europa League.
- Espanyol 0-0 Celta Vigo: A tepid draw against an awful side should have sent Celta down, but football can be cruel and today it was cruel to Leganés whose lack of a winner allowed Celta to stay in the division.
- Granada 4-0 Athletic: Granada turned on the shine and absolutely devastated the Basques on the final day, their biggest win against Athletic since 1972. A thrilling display from an exciting side that will play in the Europa League next season.
- Levante 1-0 Getafe: Getafe had qualification in their hands but threw it all away with a dour display. Jaime Mata missed a penalty for the visitors but things got worse as Levante stole it right at the death to deny Getafe a place in the Europa League next season.
- Osasuna 2-2 Mallorca: Osasuna and Mallorca both had their fates confirmed before the game so the match was predictably a thrillride. Osasuna went up, were pegged back and went behind, then equalised. Mallorca will be missed.
- Sevilla 1-0 Valencia: Los Che haven’t won away from home since December and that run continued at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan where Sevilla pulled level on points with Atlético Madrid after a solid win.