Barcelona wrapped up the LaLiga title in style as Robert Lewandowski’s double helped the Blaugrana to a 4-2 thrashing of relegation-threatened rivals Espanyol on Sunday.
Xavi’s men headed to the RCDE Stadium knowing a derby victory would secure a 27th LaLiga crown, and a superb display saw them put Espanyol to the sword as Lewandowski scored either side of Alejandro Balde’s strike to give them a commanding lead at the break.
Jules Kounde added a fourth not long after half-time, which proved late strikes from Javier Puado and Joselu as mere consolations for Luis García Fernandez’s underwhelming hosts.
Barca clinch their first league title since the 2018-19 campaign with four games to play, with the success made even sweeter by the added bonus of deepening their fierce rivals’ relegation fears.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) May 14, 2023
The visitors were ahead within just 11 minutes, Balde flying past Oscar Gil before picking out a cross for Lewandowski, who bundled in from point-blank range.
It was 2-0 shortly after, Balde turning from provider to finisher as he got on the end of Pedri’s deft cross to tap home at the far post.
With the title in sight for Barca, the three points to seize it were essentially put beyond doubt before the break as Lewandowski turned in Raphinha’s low cross.
Xavi’s side rubbed further salt in the wounds after the interval, Frenkie de Jong lifting a delightful ball over the top for Kounde to nod past Fernando Pacheco.
Espanyol fought back through Puado’s neat 73rd-minute chip and Joselu’s cool stoppage-time finish, but it would matter little as Barca ran out comfortable winners to etch their name back on the famous trophy.
What does it mean? Lewa delivers as Barca seal first title of post-Messi era
The departure of Lionel Messi and financial issues have resulted in a tumultuous couple of years for the Catalan giants, but Lewandowski’s arrival and subsequent goals have led them back to LaLiga glory.
He took his tally for the league season to 21, extending his lead at the top of the goalscoring charts and mirroring his team’s dominant display, with Barca holding 70.2 per cent of the possession while accumulating 2.72 xG (expected goals).
Busquets signs off with silverware
Sergio Busquets announced on Wednesday he would be leaving Barca at the end of this season after 18 years with the club, and he capped an emotional week by playing all 90 minutes as his team clinched the title.
Busquets’ 720th appearance for Barca ended with a 24th major honour and ninth LaLiga crown after a typically cool display in which he completed 91 per cent of his passes and managed two successful tackles.
Balde a thorn in Espanyol’s side
Balde was a constant menace to the hosts’ defence in the first half, giving Gil a terrible time and becoming the youngest player to score and assist in a derby against Espanyol in LaLiga in the 21st century.
The Spain international netted a goal and set one up for Barca for the first time in all competitions, enjoying a great 48th outing for the club by completing 34 of his 37 passes and showing his defensive skills, as no other visiting player managed more interceptions than his two.
1 – Alejandro Balde has both scored and assisted in the same game for Barcelona for the first time in all competitions (48 games), becoming the youngest player to score and assist in a derby against Espanyol in LaLiga in the 21st century (19 years and 208 days). Dagger. pic.twitter.com/VqLYpoq6mK
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 14, 2023
Key Opta facts:
– Lewandowski has scored 21 goals in 30 games for Barcelona in LaLiga, becoming the fourth fastest player to reach 20 goals in the competition in the 21st century, after Julio Baptista in 2004 (30 matches), Radamel Falcao in 2012 (26) and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2010 (24).
– Espanyol have now gone 26 derbies in a row without a win against Barcelona in LaLiga (D7 L19), the worst winless run against a single opponent in their top-flight history, and the worst winless streak by any team in any regional derby in the competition.
– Lewandowski has scored the opening goal eight times in LaLiga this season, more than any other player in the competition this campaign.
– Barcelona won their 27th LaLiga title, this being the second time they have won it against Espanyol (also in 1948-49 season).
– Barcelona have scored 4+ goals in a single game against Espanyol on the road for the eighth time in all competitions, three of them in the 21st century: 5-1 in December 2010, 4-0 in December 2018 and this game.
Next up for the champions is a home game against Real Sociedad on Saturday, while Espanyol resume their relegation dogfight against Rayo Vallecano the following day.
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