La Liga, Week 36: Real Madrid Win Title

Real Madrid are champions of La Liga after defeating Athletic Bilbao at San Mames.

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Athletic Bilbao Vs. Real Madrid, 2012 La Liga: Los Merengues Are Champions

Real Madrid are champions of La Liga, thanks to their fantastic performance on Wednesday against Athletic Bilbao at San Mames. Because of injuries and fixture congestion, Athletic did not play some of their top players and did not look like themselves against Los Merengues. The visitors scored twice early in the match, then added another shortly after halftime before coasting to a 3-0 victory.

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty in the 12th minute, but his miss was soon forgotten. Gonzalo Higuain scored the opener in the 16th minute with an absolute stunner, hit with ferocious power past Gorka Iraizoz from 20 yards out. Just four minutes later, Cristiano Ronaldo set up Mesut Özil for a close-range finish with a great cross, doubling Madrid's lead.

Ronaldo scored a goal of his own, making up for the penalty miss by heading in a Xabi Alonso cross in the 50th minute. Madrid seemed to let off the gas a bit after that third goal, and truly went into coast mode when Javi Martinez was shown a harsh second yellow card for what looked to be an unintentional handball in the 72nd minute.

This victory put Madrid seven points ahead of Barcelona with two games to go, clinching the title. The players celebrated the title on the pitch and a number of Athletic fans stayed to applaud them, along with the large number of Madrid supporters who made the trip to the Basque Country.

For more on Los Merengues, head over to Real Madrid blog Managing Madrid.

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Barcelona Vs. Malaga, 2012 La Liga: Blaugrana Ride Messi, Penalties To 4-1 Win

Things went from bad to worse for Málaga in the second half of a tough game in a tough stadium. After suffering the bad luck of a 50/50 call going against them--and paying the ultimate price for it--in the first half, they had to go through the whole process again in the second half. At first, they came out admirably, ready to attack Barcelona and exploit their game with quick, incisive counters. Then, they were undone from the penalty spot.

This is to take nothing away from Barcelona, who played a very complete--albeit a bit aloof, seemingly uninterested game--and thoroughly beat Málaga. They rode their best player the whole night, and the little Argentine didn't disappoint (did you really think he wouldn't come through again?). Messi was the catalyst for all of Barcelona's offense tonight--and what a catalyst.

The penalty in the second half did not resemble the penalty in the first half at all. In the first half, Iniesta, slicing towards the area, was brought down on the edge of the box. The question was not whether it was a foul; the question was where was Andrés. The second penalty, the opposite was true. Messi, free on goal, was tackled by Duda in the box. Duda went to ground, but did manage to knock the ball away from Messi, who also fell down. Repetitions were unclear, and Málaga's players swarmed referee Turienzo Alvarez. It was another tough-luck call that broke against the andalusians.

From then on, it was pretty much all Barcelona--though Ruud Van Nistelrooy, coming on as a substitute for Rondón, almost scored on a beautiful cross that he knocked over the bar. Had it been 2007, that wouldn't have even been a question. Van Goal would have been celebrating and we'd all be staring wondering how it had gone in.

And, for good measure, Messi decided to finish things off. Málaga's defense, strong all night, allowed an inch of space for Andrés Iniesta, an the Man from Manchego (doesn't have that ring to it, does it?) sent a perfect (and I mean it) ball to Messi, who broke on keeper Kameni. Messi slipped past the Cameroonian, and tapped the ball in. 4-1, and that was pretty much it.

Now, all eyes turn to Bilbao to see whether Madrid will be able to finish off the Liga officially with a win tonight. It should be an interesting match, to say the least.

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Barcelona Vs. Malaga, 2012 La Liga: Unlucky Malaga Down 2-1 At The Half

It was all coming apart for Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. The first 10 minutes of their (possibly) Liga-losing match against fourth place Málaga had resulted in almost no real offensive opportunities, and, for good measure, Málaga had hit the post on a brilliant foul from Duda in the 10th minute. Málaga was looking increasingly threatening on the counter attack, and Barcelona couldn't create any real offense to match the andalusian side's intensity.

Then, a mistake. Eliseu lost the ball on the left flank. Isaac Cuenca intercepted his pass and drove on goal, dropping the ball off to Pedro on the wing. The young Spaniard crossed it to Lionel Messi, who left it for Andrés Iniesta. The Spaniard dropped it back to the center, where it found the extra-wet head of one Carles Puyol. Alright, fine, I'm not sure it hit his head. I just wanted to say that. But it definitely hit something of his. And went in.

And, like that, Málaga was in the same hole that most sides tend to be in against Barcelona in the Nou Camp. But they gamely battled on. Barcelona's attack still wasn't creating the chances that they normally do, and Málaga were still hitting on the counter...but it seemed highly unlikely that they would do anything productive with their chances. When you hit the post on Barcelona, you're normally not getting another shot.

But they did. After a long counter attack, that left much of Málaga's attacking force up field, Gámez flipped a little banana pass (that's what it's called in Spain) into the area, where it met with Rondón's head. The striker nailed the ball into Pinto's (a starter tonight over Valdés) bottom corner. A brilliant strike.

Barcelona had the better of the possession for the rest of the half, but it was honestly hard to qualify which team had the best of the tactics. Málaga broke numerous times on the counter, creating really serious threats on Pinto's goal; Messi created Barcelona's main opportunities (isn't he awesome).

Finally, in the 34th minute, Barcelona got a little help. Messi fed the ball to Andrés Iniesta, who slalomed towards the goal; as he was about to enter the penalty area, he was taken down in mid-jump. The referee pointed to the spot. It was very unclear from replays (and that's being generous), whether the little Spaniard was actually in the area or not--it depends on your point of view, and was certainly a 50/50 call. Barcelona got it; Málaga didn't.

Leo Messi put the penalty away. I'm going to refrain from Barcelona/Real Madrid penalty ineptness jokes for now. But just imagine that I made them.

Make sure to follow Barca Blaugranes for up-to-the-minute updates from the Culé point of view. And we'll keep you covered in this StoryStream.

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Atletico Madrid Vs. Real Sociedad, 2012 La Liga: La Real Deny Atleti A Win

Atletico Madrid are now all but locked out of the top four spots in La Liga, and will not be playing Champions League football next year unless Malaga or Valencia suffers a truly epic collapse. They're five points behind their rivals for fourth place with two games remaining after they drew 1-1 on Wednesday with Real Sociedad. Both Malaga and Valencia have one game in hand which they will play later on Wednesday.

The first half was highly uneventful, with neither goalkeeper having to do any significant work. Things picked up considerably early in the second half and Atletico Madrid struck first. In the 54th minute, Gabi put his side in front with a spectacular strike from 20 yards out, beating Claudio Bravo with a nearly unstoppable shot.

Unfortunately, what Gabi gave to Atleti, he also indirectly took away. He picked up a yellow card in the 69th minute, then picked up another four minutes later and was sent off, taking Atletico Madrid down to 10 men. Real Sociedad responded with two attacking substitutions, bringing Joseba Llorente and Carlos Vela into the game between the sending off and the 80th minute.

Vela netted the equalizer in stoppage time on a corner kick. Carlos Martinez had the first chance off the corner, but couldn't hit the target with his header. Llorente eventually won the ball and found Vela, who smashed the ball into the net from close range to seal the draw for La Real and kill off any realistic hopes Atleti had of a top-four finish.

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Athletic Bilbao Vs. Real Madrid, 2012 La Liga Week 36: Los Blancos Can Wrap Up Title

Real Madrid look to wrap-up La Liga with a victory over a motivated Bilbao.

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Barcelona Vs. Malaga, 2012 La Liga Week 36: Blaugrana Preparing For Cup Final

Barcelona begins preparation for the Copa del Rey Final against a Malaga side with something big to play for.

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La Liga, Week 36: Tuesday Wrap, Villarreal And Granada Inch Closer To Safety

The bottom three in La Liga are almost set after Tuesday's results. Villarreal and Granada, two of the teams on the edge of the drop zone, both won their games to pull well out of the bottom. Sporting Gijon got closer to the drop and will now need a miracle to stay up.

Getafe 1-1 Racing Santander

Getafe have been mediocre for a long time, while Racing's relegation had already been confirmed. Why this match was actually played, no one knows. Mike scored a penalty for the hosts in the 59th minute, which was answered by a Papa Kouly Diop goal for Racing.

Granada 2-1 Espanyol

Because of this result, Espanyol will be eliminated from contention for the top six if Atletico Madrid win their Week 36 match. They spent much of the year in the top six places, but they're all the way down to 12th at the moment. This win means that Granada will only need to draw one of their remaining two games to avoid relegation if Real Zaragoza wins out without making up a 10-goal differential. Odion Ighalo netted an unlikely brace for Granada in this one, scoring his third and fourth goals of the year.

Sporting Gijon 2-3 Villarreal

Sporting had twice as many shots as the Yellow Submarine and 56 percent of the possession in this match, but were always playing from behind. Mario Perez scored the opener, assisted by Bruno. Alberto Lora equalized for Sporting in the 39th minute, but they quickly gifted the lead back to Villarreal. Gregory hauled down Marco Ruben in the box in the 43rd minute, the referee gave a penalty, and Marcos Senna stepped up to convert, making it 2-1.

In the second half, Hernan Perez put the game away for Villarreal with a goal in the 56th minute. Alejandro Galvez got Sporting back into the game in the 85th minute with a goal made easy by a terrible Cristian Zapata header, but Sporting couldn't find an equalizer. The match ended with a sideline scuffle, for which Sporting manager Javier Clemente and Villarreal backup keeper Cesar Sanchez were ejected.

By losing this match at home, Sporting are six points from safety and seven points from Villarreal, who cannot be caught by Sporting. Two points from their final three games will ensure safety for the Yellow Submarine if Real Zaragoza win out. Sporting can only stay up by making up a six-point and 10-goal gap on Rayo Vallecano, who have a game in hand on them.

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