Real Madrid made light work of Deportivo La Coruna at the Riazor on Saturday, but their Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired 2-0 win was not enough to wrestle the Liga title from Barcelona.
Zinedine Zidane’s men went into their final match of the season a point behind Barca and an early Ronaldo tap-in put the Catalans under pressure, but – in Granada – Luis Suarez’s hat-trick in a 3-0 win consigned Madrid to the runners-up spot for a second successive year.
Ronaldo’s early effort was exactly what the away side deserved after a fine start, and the Portugal star doubled his tally in the 25th minute, heading in with the help of a major deflection.
Ronaldo could have added another two before his half-time withdrawal were it not for the woodwork, but he ultimately had to settle on 35 goals for the campaign.
Madrid produced a rather more lax performance after the break, perhaps a combination of Ronaldo’s exit and Barca’s lead in Granada, and Keylor Navas had to be alert to keep Rober’s header at bay towards the end.
In the end, Zidane’s side had little trouble holding on to a routine win, but it was not enough to claim a 33rd Liga title and Los Blancos must now turn their focus to the Champions League final on May 28.
Madrid began like a team with a clear objective and their start was ominous, pressing high and pouring men forward with real intent.
Deportivo looked out of their depth from the off and Madrid’s opener in only the seventh minute had an air of inevitability about it, as Gareth Bale breezed past Manuel Pablo and cut the ball back to Benzema, who found Ronaldo for an easy finish.
The home side offered little resistance and Madrid doubled their lead 18 minutes later, when Ronaldo headed a Toni Kroos corner in off Pedro Mosquera.
Deportivo were lucky not to find themselves four down by the half-hour mark, but Ronaldo struck the post from a tight angle after beating the offside trap, before Stipe Pletikosa thwarted Benzema.
Ronaldo struck the frame of the goal again with 35 minutes on the clock, smashing a left-footed drive against the crossbar from 18 yards as a hat-trick continued to elude him.
Zidane withdrew Ronaldo for James Rodriguez at the break, with the coach seemingly having their upcoming Champions League final date with Atletico Madrid at the forefront of his mind.
Madrid attacked with significantly less purpose after half-time, thus allowing Deportivo a little more freedom.
And they almost pulled one back 18 minutes from time, but Navas got in the way of Rober’s close-range header.
Isco also went close with a header at the other end, but the match ultimately petered out as Madrid accepted Barcelona’s destiny as champions for a sixth time in eight seasons.
Key Opta stats:
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored in six of his last seven league games (eight goals).
– The Portuguese is the only player to have scored more than 30 goals in six La Liga seasons in a row (35).
– Karim Benzema has scored 24 goals in La Liga 2015-16, his best goal tally in a single La Liga season.
– Real Madrid haven’t won La Liga in the last four years, their worst run since the four La Ligas in a row won by Barcelona between 1991 and 1994.
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