Athletic Bilbao 0-3 Real Madrid, Video Highlights: Higuain, Ozil and Ronaldo on target as Mourinho’s champions celebrate 32nd Liga title
Real Madrid ended Barcelona’s pursuit of a fourth consecutive La Liga title as it beat Athletic Bilbao at San Mames to secure a record 32nd domestic crown. Pep Guardiola’s side had easily dispatched of Malaga leaving Los Blancos requiring a win against Athletic, and the club duly obliged despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty miss. Gonzalo Higuain’s superb strike gave Real the lead after 16 minutes, and the team doubled the advantage soon after when Mesut Ozil netted his second La Liga goal. Cristiano Ronaldo completed the scoring in simplistic fashion soon after the break as he looked to respond to Lionel Messi’s hat trick in the challenge for the Pichichi trophy, but despite Javi Martinez’s sending off Madrid was unable to extend the lead. Los Blancos started in determined fashion as Gorka Iraizoz was forced to rush hurriedly off his line to deny Higuain following Xabi Alonso’s through ball inside the opening minute, as Madrid searched for an early strike. As the Basques began to settle Javi Martinez needlessly raised his hands in the penalty area leaving Cristiano Ronaldo with the opportunity to open the scoring. However, the Portugal international attempted to gently lift the ball down center of the goal but Iraizoz was quick to react turning it over the bar. Los Blancos’ endeavor was finally rewarded, and in breathtaking fashion after a swift counterattacking move saw Sami Khedira, Ronaldo and Ozil all combine before the latter shifted the ball to Higuain . The Argentine let the ball run across his body before arrowing a superb unstoppable drive into the top corner. The Basques themselves responded positively, and could easily have been awarded a penalty when Markel Susaeta saw his shot blocked by Khedira’s outstretched arm, only for his appeals to be waved away. Xabi Alonso showed his array of passing attributes when, with the outside of his right boot, he found Ronaldo whose equally perfect low cross found Ozil at the far post, where he crisply finished back across goal to double Madrid’s lead. The half proceeded to end in frantic fashion as both sides were denied by the woodwork. Mikel San Jose’s deflected strike hammered back off the bar following Iker Casillas’ flying save from Inigo Perez, and in response Ozil’s effort clipped the frame of the goal on the way behind. Madrid’s energetic start to the match was replicated after the break as Higuain’s magical run, passing four Athletic defenders, ended with his shot being deflected for a corner kick. It was three, however, from the resulting set piece when Alonso delivered the ball into the six yard box and Ronaldo gleefully headed home unchallenged. With the Basque beginning to look drained in what was their 59th match of the season, Real looked to extend the lead. Alonso’s majestic reverse pass gave Jose Callejon a sight of goal but the youngster’s first touch took him away from goal and he was unable to generate enough pace on his shot to beat Iraizoz. The Basque outfit continued to offer a threat to Casillas’ goal and was denied by the crossbar for a second time when Oscar de Marcos thrashed an effort towards the target. In absurd circumstances Athletic was reduced to 10 men after Javi Martinez, booked for handling in the first half in giving away the penalty, was sent off for the same offense after Los Blancos outnumbered the Basques defense on the break. Ronaldo came closest to scoring late on after being put through by Marcelo only to be denied by a great save. The game’s end prompted a pitch invasion of small traveling contingent of Madrid fans as they celebrated the team’s first league title in four years. Real Madrid will look to complete a season of records, which has seen Jose Mourinho become the first manager to win four different domestic league, and the team could end the season with 100 points if it wins the two remaining games.