Record night as Real win La Liga

Real Win La Liga

Wasn't this the golden age of FC Barcelona?

Real Madrid.

Barely a week ago the blaugrana were going for a clean sweep of trophies as their legend as the greatest football team of all time continued to be told.

Now Barça are out of the Champions League and have handed their Spanish title to Real Madrid with a loss to their arch-rivals at the Camp Nou.

This evening Real clinched La Liga in style by beating Europa League finalists Athletic Bilbao 3-0 away to open up an unassailable seven-point lead with two games remaining. Lionel Messi did what he could, bagging  his ninth hat-trick of the campaign  as Barcelona beat fourth-placed Malaga 4-1.

On an evening of records, Messi scored his 68th goal (46 in the league) to prise away Gerd Muller's 39-year record for strikes in one season, while Real coach Jose Mourinho won a title in his fourth different country, following league championships in Portugal (Porto), England (Chelsea) and Italy (Inter).

How does that achievement measure up?

Little-known Croat Tomislav Ivic won titles in Belgium, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal and Yugoslavia, six different nations. Ernst Happel won in his native Austria, Germany, Italy and Portugal, as has current Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Louis Van Gaal (wins in Holland, Spain & Germany) comes closest in terms of big-league wins, followed by a number who have won titles major nations: Carlo Ancelotti has won titles in Italy & England and is chasing a third in France this year, Arsene Wenger has clinched the title in France and England, while a trio have bagged Serie A and La Liga crowns - Vujadin Boskov, Fabio Capello and Helenio Herrera.

Valencia, a distant 29 points behind Barcelona in third place, qualified for next season's Champions League by beating Osasuna 4-0.

*Newcastle United continued their march towards the Champions League with a 2-0 win at rivals Chelsea.The Toon sit fifth in the Premier League, four points clear of the Blues and a point behind third-place Arsenal. Newcastle play Manchester City at home and Everton away in their final games.

The Sun.

*Also in England, the Football Association has criticised The Sun for its mocking of new England manager Roy Hodgson's speech impediment. "We are delighted at the media response to Roy's appointment," FA chief David Bernstein said, "but are disappointed with the headline in The Sun, which we consider is in poor taste and disrespectful." The Press Complaints Commission confirmed it had received over 100 complaints about the front page of Rupert Murdoch's tabloid.

* Fiorentina have sacked manager Delio Rossi after a touchline altercation with one of his players. Rossi becomes the 19th coaching casualty in Serie A this season, smashing the previous record of 15 in the 1951-'52 season. Serie A has 20 teams.

* Ajax retained the Dutch title with a 2-0 win over Venlo.With one match to play they are six points clear of Feyenoord and seven above PSV. UEFA rank the Eredivisie as the eighth-best league in Europe.

*The title race in Italy is going down to the wire as Milan closed to within one point of leaders Juventus. The Rossoneri beat Atalanta at San Siro 2-0 but Juve could only draw 1-1 at home to Lecce. Juve play Atalanta at home in their final game, but must first travel to Cagliari. Milan are at home to lowly Novara on the last day of the season, but face a Milan derby with Inter before that.

The final day of the season in Italy is traditional for deals to be struck and friendship credits to be stored up, American writer Joe McGinnis was surprised to discover in his memorable book The Miracle of Castel di Sangro.


* Ukraine is having a dreadful PR week ahead of its hosting of Euro 2012 in June. After a catalogue of delays and warnings about its poor infrastructure and UEFA boss Michel Platini labeling its hoteliers "crooks and bandits" for jacking up their room rates, four bombs exploded in Dnipropetrovsk at the weekend, injuring 27 people. Now high-level political disapproval is starting to appear.

European President Jose Manuel Barroso has said he will not attend Euro 2012 in protest at the politically-motivated imprisonment and apparent beating of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The Austrian and Croatian governments have also confirmed they will not be attending the tournament in any form and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to be considering whether to pull out or not. Tymoshenko has been on hunger strike for two weeks now.

Euro 2012 was supposed to be Ukraine's advert to the world, although with a pro-Russian President, one cannot but help wonder how much they want to impress the E.U. to the west anyway. Platini, after many a headache, will just be glad when it is all over.

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- Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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