Football Features

How Carlo Ancelotti made history in Real Madrid’s most dominant La Liga title win since the 90s

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 17:58, 30 April 2022

Real Madrid clinched a record-extending 35th league title after running out emphatic 4-0 winners over Espanyol at home this afternoon.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men, who are eyeing Champions League glory, required a point to regain their La Liga crown after coming into this weekend’s fixture sitting 15 points clear of Barcelona in second place. Despite making no fewer than nine changes from the side that started at the Etihad earlier in the week, Thibaut Courtois and Luka Modric being the sole survivors, it was another stellar outing ahead of the semi-final return leg against Manchester City

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There was a semblance of patience required as Brazilian duo Marcelo and Rodrygo combined to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute. This was Rodrygo’s second effort in three La Liga games, and first at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu this season. In fact, the Sevilla goal a fortnight ago was his first of the campaign. And then, like London buses, Rodrygo — who’ll likely retain his spot when Pep Guardiola’s side visits in a few days’ time — effectively put the game out of sight minutes before half-time which follows a pattern. Real have now scored 11 goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half, only Villarreal (13) produced more in the Spanish top division this season.

Marco Asensio completed the rout after the break and by doing so netted his 10th of the season. The first time he’s managed to reach double figures in a single La Liga campaign. By celebrating this unparalleled success, Real have wrapped up the competition with four games to spare, which is something they last did in 1990. There were also emotional scenes in the dugout. Having been re-appointed last summer Ancelotti has finally lifted Spain’s biggest footballing prize which goes nicely alongside his Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga winners medals. The revered Italian tactician subsequently becomes the first manager to win each of Europe’s ‘big five’ championships.

Regarding the native of Reggiolo it’s quality over quantity as this also happens to be his fifth league title secured in a managerial career spanning nearly three decades. It’s also a triumph over speculation as many observers had the former Napoli and Everton boss down as a goner following a tough period earlier in this campaign. Possessing the most-feared marksman in Europe at your disposal goes a long way to help.

Karim Benzema, who began on the bench, is operating on an otherworldly level. His performances in the European Cup aside the French striker is running away with the Pichichi Trophy, today saw him register his 26th goal currently placing him 11 clear of the league’s next best. It’s not only scoring where Benzema has been effective, he’s created no fewer than 11 goals, which puts him firmly in the hunt to be crowned La Liga’s ‘assist king’ this season.

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The old adage: defence wins championships applies here too. Real presently boast the league’s second-best defence after shipping in 29 goals with Sevilla only conceding one fewer. Getting the better of Ancelotti’s side in the opening 45 minutes has proven to be a difficult proposition. Today’s shutout at half-time meant they’ve stopped the opposition from scoring a first-half goal in 22 of their 34 games, only Real Sociedad (25) and Villarreal (23) have done this more often in Spain’s top-flight this season. Of those 22 games they’ve gone on to keep a cleansheet in 14, only Real Sociedad (19) and Sevilla (15) boast a meaner defence.

With the championship now wrapped up Real can now put all their energy on reversing a 4-3 deficit against City, if they do get past the English champions then Los Blancos will then chase a La Liga-European Cup double, which they’ve managed to do so on three occasions before the most recent coming under Zinedine Zidane’s leadership in 2016/17 when they won the league by three points from Barça and inflicted a 4-1 loss on Juventus in Cardiff.