Atletico Madrid have been crowned La Liga champions, as Diego Godin’s header ensured a 1-1 draw away to Barcelona.
Xavi and Neymar were left on the bench for the Blaugrana by Tata Martino for tactical and fitness reasons, but Gerard Pique was passed fit and played at centre-back alongside Javier Mascherano. Those two were charged with stopping Diego Costa and David Villa, as Diego Simeone opted to go with two forwards.
Not since 1951 had the League title been decided on the final day of the season by two clubs facing each other. But that was exactly what would happen at Camp Nou, with Atleti knowing that a point would see them become champions for the first time in 18 years.
Despite what many thought would be a nervy occasion, the game started in a frantic fashion, with both teams playing a high intensity. It was though, the home team who had the first chance. A cross from Dani Alves found Andres Iniesta, but the Spain international’s first time effort went high over the bar.
At the other end, a clumsy foul from Pique ended in an Atleti free kick – but Gabi’s floated ball wasn’t accurate enough to force a save from Jose Pinto.
The hosts couldn’t settle into their usual possession-based style, with the Rojiblancos pressing and hassling at every turn. And when they did have the ball, the visitors were looking threatening. A neat pass from Koke found Arda Turan on the right-hand side, and his first time cross lingered dangerously in the area. Pique panicked and watched as his clearance looped over the head of the goalkeeper, but also the bar.
That initial momentum was punctuated somewhat on 15 minutes though, as Diego Costa pulled up in mid-spring, aggravating the hamstring injury which had plagued his build-up. Adrian Lopez came on as a substitute, with the television camera fixated on the striker, in tears, on the bench.
The Vicente Calderon outfit couldn’t believe it, and things got even worse midway through the half, as another attacking threat pulled up with an injury. This time, it was Arda Turan who limped off the pitch, and Atleti knew if they were going to the League, it would be the hard way.
On the pitch, those injuries seemed to give Barca a lift, and they almost opened the scoring soon after. A cross from Alves found the head of Alexis, but Thibaut Courtois was equal to it and saved well.
The Belgium international couldn’t stop the effort from Alexis on 34 minutes though, as the Chilean forward netted the opener. A pass from Cesc Fabregas found Lionel Messi, who teed up the former Udinese man to fire a half-volley into the top right-hand corner.
After the break, the Colchoneros came flying out of the blocks, and almost grabbed an equaliser inside two minutes. Filipe Luis broke down the left, crossed to Villa, and the former Blaugrana man spun and struck the post with a rasping effort.
Whatever Simeone said at half-time, it clearly worked, and their fast start eventually paid dividends on 50 minutes. A corner from the right was swung in by Koke, and up jumped Diego Godin to head in past Pinto.
The home side were seeing very little of the ball as Camp Nou was stunned into silence following that equaliser. But their roars could be heard in the capital when Messi netted from just four yards out. The cheers however, were short-lived as the linesman put his flag up for offside.
Martino’s men were pressing hard now for that League winning goal, but the away side were holding strong as a yellow wall kept out the Blaugrana with numerous last-ditch clearances.
But, amazingly, they did manage to hold out, as pandemonium ensued once the final whistle went, as Atletico Madrid got the point they needed to win their first title since 1996.
Barcelona 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Scorers: Alexis 34 (B); Diego Godin 50 (AM)
Barcelona: Pinto; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano; Cesc (Xavi 76), Busquets (Song 57), Iniesta; Alexis, Messi, Pedro (Neymar 62)
Atletico Madrid: Courtois, Juanfran, Miranda, Godín, Filipe Luis, Tiago, Gabi, Koke, Arda Turan (Raul Garcia 22), Villa, Diego Costa (Adrian 17, Sosa 71)