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Soccer roundup: Real Madrid wins to secure La Liga crown

Real Madrid players celebrate clinching the La Liga title after a 2-0 win at Malaga on Sunday. (Daniel Tejedor / Associated Press)
Real Madrid players celebrate clinching the La Liga title after a 2-0 win at Malaga on Sunday. (Daniel Tejedor / Associated Press)

MADRID – Real Madrid won the Spanish league for the first time in five years on Sunday, and kept rival Barcelona from its third straight championship.

Zinedine Zidane’s team secured its 33rd league title with a 2-0 win at Malaga with goals by Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

“To win the title in the last round feels that much better,” Cristiano Ronaldo said. “We deserved it.”

The last-round victory gave Madrid a three-point advantage over second-placed Barcelona, which rallied from two goals down to beat Eibar 4-2 at the Camp Nou.

Madrid entered the final weekend needing a draw to guarantee its first title since 2012 and avoid its worst title drought since the 1980s.

Ronaldo put Madrid in control early in Malaga, entering the area and rounding the goalkeeper before finding the open net, after a pass by Francisco “Isco” Alarcon two minutes into the match at the Rosaleda Stadium. It was Ronaldo’s 14th goal in his last nine matches in all competitions.

While Barcelona struggled in its game against Eibar, Karim Benzema sealed the victory in the 55th minute off the rebound of a close-range shot by Sergio Ramos, securing Madrid its second league title in the last nine years.

Madrid hadn’t gone five straight seasons without a league title since 1981-85. It will pursue its third Champions League title in four seasons in a final against Juventus in Cardiff on June 3. It would be Madrid’s first double in the European competition and in La Liga in nearly six decades.

It was the first league title for Zidane, the former France great who took over Madrid for his first head-coaching job less than 1 1/2 years ago.

“It is very important to lift this trophy again after so many years without being able to win La Liga,” said Zidane, who was thrown up and down by his players after the final whistle. “I’ve won everything with this club, but this title is special. This is the happiest day in my professional career.”

Players wore shirts with the No. 33 – in a reference to the 33rd title – as they celebrated on the pitch before heading back to Madrid to meet their fans in a major public plaza.

Madrid has already won the European Super Cup and the Club World Cup this season.

At the Camp Nou, Barcelona saw its chances of another league title take a hit after Japanese midfielder Takashi Inui scored in the seventh and 61st minutes.

Barcelona started its comeback with an own-goal by Eibar defender David Junca in the 63rd, and Luis Suarez equalized in the 73rd after Lionel Messi had missed a penalty kick a few minutes earlier.

Messi, the league’s scoring leader with 37 goals, converted another penalty in the 75th and closed the scoring in injury time.

Eibar played a man down from the 74th as defender Ander Capa was sent off.

It was Barcelona’s last game at the Camp Nou with its coach Luis Enrique, who is leaving the club after the season ends.

“I can’t complain about our team,” Luis Enrique said. “We fought until the final minute and we never gave up. We have to congratulate the champions.”

Barcelona will play the Copa del Rey final against Alaves next Saturday.

Juve takes sixth straight Italitan title

ROME – Juventus clinched a record sixth straight Serie A title with a 3-0 win over relegation-threatened Crotone in the penultimate round on Sunday.

Mario Mandzukic gave Juventus the lead 12 minutes in by redirecting a cross from Juan Cuadrado, Paulo Dybala scored with a precise free kick shortly before the break and Alex Sandro added another with a header near the end.

Juventus moved four points clear of second-placed Roma, which last Sunday handed the Bianconeri their first Serie A loss since January.

Since Serie A was founded in 1929, no club had previously won more than five straight titles.

Torino won five consecutive titles from 1943-49 (including a season that was canceled due to World War II), Inter Milan took five straight from 2006-10 and Juventus claimed a handful from 1931-35.

“We’ve written one of the greatest pages in the book of football history,” said Juventus captain Gianluigi Buffon, who also won the 2002 and 2003 Serie A titles with Juventus.

“Winning is never easy,” Buffon added. “Beyond what people say, staying at the top is synonymous with sacrifice on everyone’s part. … If you want to always win matches, you’ve got to always have your head in focus and your legs prepared.”

It’s the second title in five days for Juventus after a 2-0 win over Lazio in the Italian Cup final on Wednesday.

Juventus also added to its record number of Serie A titles, with its 33rd.

Players dumped shaving cream over the head of manager Massimiliano Allegri at the final whistle, then put on celebratory T-shirts with a `6’ on them.

“First of all, I’ve got to complement the players who have won six straight titles. They’re the ones going down in history,” said Allegri, who replaced Antonio Conte in 2014.

Allegri, who has aspirations of following Conte to the English Premier League, wouldn’t confirm that he’ll remain with Juventus.

“It depends on both of us,” Allegri said when told that club director Giuseppe Marotta inferred his future is up to the coach. “I’m very happy at Juventus. But now we’ve got to focus on playing, and possibly winning, the (Champions League) final in Cardiff.”

Liverpool, Man City grab UCL spots

LONDON – Arsene Wenger’s proud record is over: Arsenal has failed to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years.

Arsenal’s hope of squeezing into the Premier League top four relied on Liverpool or Manchester City slipping up, but they both won easily to join league winner Chelsea and Tottenham in entering the Champions League.

Manchester City pummeled Watford 5-0 and Liverpool defeated Middlesbrough 3-0.

So even though Arsenal beat Everton 3-1 to complete the league campaign with five successive wins, the resurgence came too late and Wenger had to settle for fifth – the lowest finish since taking charge of the team in 1996.

Whether Wenger is back in charge at the Emirates Stadium next season is yet to be resolved. The 67-year-old Frenchman won’t discuss his future until after Saturday’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

Chelsea is chasing a double. Antonio Conte’s side received the Premier League trophy after routing bottom-place Sunderland 5-1 on Sunday, two weeks after securing a second title in three seasons.

Chelsea finished seven points in front of Tottenham, which completed its best league campaign in 54 years in style by beating relegated Hull 7-1.


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