Real Madrid wins record-extending 36th La Liga title

Real Madrid sealed a record-extending 36th La Liga title on Saturday after rival Barcelona suffered a second-half collapse against Girona, succumbing to a 4-2 defeat which ensured that Los Blancos cannot be overtaken at the top of the table.

Real had secured a 3-0 victory over Cádiz earlier in the day, leaving Barcelona with a must-win clash to keep the title race mathematically alive with four games of the season remaining.

And initially it looked as if Barcelona might stave off the almost inevitable Real Madrid title win for another week, as goals from Andreas Christiansen and Robert Lewandowski gave the Blaugrana a 2-1 lead at halftime with only some spectacular goalkeeping from Paulo Gazzaniga preventing a bigger lead.

But Barça spurned several chances after the break and Girona equalized in the 65th minute through Cristian Portu, before Miguel Gutiérrez’s effort gave the Blanquivermells the lead just a minute later and Portu’s second goal – a glorious volley from the edge of the box – made sure of the result.

Such has been Real Madrid’s dominance in the league this season that a 36th title has seemed almost assured for a while now. It has suffered only one defeat throughout the season – back in September against Atlético Madrid – while longtime rival Barcelona has struggled for form.

Girona, a club playing in only its fourth season in La Liga, emerged as Real’s closest title contender before Los Blancos dispatched with it following a 4-0 drubbing in February.

Goals from Brahim Díaz, Joselu and, of course, Jude Bellingham propelled Real Madrid to its decisive win against Cádiz on Saturday.

Bellingham, who became just the fifth Englishman to win La Liga, has been at the fulcrum of Real Madrid’s success this season, netting 18 league goals, including injury time winners in both El Clásico victories against Barcelona.

While it is Bellingham’s first title at Real Madrid, it is a remarkable 25th trophy for Nacho and Luka Modrić who joined Marcelo and Karim Benzema as the club’s most decorated players.

“I’d be lying to you if I told you that when I was little I didn’t dream of winning a La Liga as captain,” Real Madrid captain Nacho told his club’s website, after winning his fourth league title.

“It’s a feeling I’ve been looking forward to this year. It’s a dream come true. To win a league title at Real Madrid is magnificent, but to do it as captain is even better.”

But there is little time for celebration with the second leg of a Champions League semifinal against Bayern Munich looming on Wednesday. For a club that has won as many trophies as Real Madrid, winning the league represents only a job half-done - it is winning in Europe that truly counts.

“We will celebrate the title together on Saturday (with the fans),” manager Carlo Ancelotti said afterwards, per the club’s website. “Now it’s important to have a restrained celebration because Wednesday’s objective is very important.”

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