Real are champions of Spain
The Whites have been crowned the champions of La Liga yet again after a close encounter against a competent Osasuna that looked to be clinching victory with just minutes to go. Super-sub Gonzalo Higuain led the nine time Champions League winners to their 31st La Liga title, though a man and a goal behind in the dying minutes of the game.
Osasuna 1 - 2 Real Madrid
Osasuna - PuÃ±al [83'] pen
Real Madrid - Arjen Robben [87'], Gonzalo Higuain [89']
Man of The Match: Higuain
Venue: Reyno de Navarra [19,800]
Referee: Medina Cantalejo
Osasuna: Ricardo, Flano, Cruchaga, Flano[Sola], Monreal, Punal, Astudillo, Azpilcueta, Plasil, Vela, Portillo [Pandiani]
Real Madrid: Casillas, Ramos, Pepe, Cannavaro [RED], Heinze, Gago, Diarra, Robben, Sneijder [Baptista], Raul [Higuain], Saviola [Torres]
Gonzalo Higuain is the god send angel for the Madridistas around the world, he is the super-sub who has won the La Liga for Real Madrid without ever waiting for the El Clasico to be the decider. It never seemed that the Los Blancos can go to La Cibeles tonight to celebrate their victory until he stepped up. He had scored goals coming from the bench and had saved matches for Real Madrid before, however a comeback in the last eight minutes with only ten players in the field looked highly unlikely. Bernd Schuster wouldn't have thought the end would be so dramatic when he replaced his ever-reliable captain Raul by Higuain in the dying minutes.
The visitors already knew that they wanted a win to be the league champions again and Schuster lined-up an attacking squad giving more importance to midfield play. The Whites defence did look strong with no first choice men injured or suspended, and a win looked comfortable enough against the relegation battling Osasuna. The game opened with Osasuna enjoying more attacking moves and Real Madrid unable to find any cohesion in their attack. A solid performance by the Osasuna back-wall created problems for the Whites smooth playing style, and in no time former Real Madrid striker Portillo tried his luck against Casillas. He had good efforts on goal and looked dynamic though not good enough to beat Spain's number one. The first-half looked rather cold with players losing the ball rather cheaply and trying individual runs into the box to find themselves crowded with defenders closing down. The only chances Real Madrid had were the tap by Saviola in the early minutes of the first half and the late long rang effort from Diarra, Ricardo matching the Mali international's effort.
A clumsy tackle by Cannavaro on gave him a yellow card and Heinze grabbed one after having a clash with Los Rojillos captain.
Fabio Cannavaro was sent-off with only 20 seconds into the second-half, a rather foolish challenge on Plasil made him deserve the card. The referee is known to be strict, however this was a really unwanted slide and the former World Player had to go off. It pushed Real Madrid back and they had to sacrifice Saviola to let Torres come in. Schuster changed his tactics and Raul played upfront, Robben moving to far right and Sneijder occupying the left side. Schuster's men has not been the best behaved and they had been cautioned for indiscipline before. Fabio had just returned from a suspension and it seems that he will miss the El Clasico at home along with Gabriel Heinze which would cost Real Madrid dear.
Osasuna boss changed his tactics from containing the Madrid forwards, sending in two new strikers, to start attacking and grab the man-to-man advantage. It gave them more freedom upfront and they looked deadly in some of the attacking moves that involved Vela and Monreal throught the left flank combined with Plasil's free forward runs. The hardworking Rojillos were rewarded when the referee awarded them a penalty as a result of a hand-ball by Heinze in the 82nd minute. Heinze was lucky enough to get away without any card, or else Real Madrid would have lost two of their men. PuÃ±al did not look that confident when he took the penalty and send it rolling through the middle of the goal, succeeding in committing Casillas to his left corner. It seemed lke justice done for the relegation threatened Osasuna, however the young Argentine forward, Higuain had something else in his mind.
Come back Kings
The Whites had been hailed as the 'Come Back Kings' last season, when they came back in almost all the matches, thanks to the tactical change and effective substitution by former Madrid boss Capello. Schuster, a master tactician himself had been using his attacking centre-forward, Higuain to this effect for some matches. Not many managers in the world would replace Raul in such a difficult situation, however the German coach had more confidence in the Argentine youngster. El Pipita took the right flank and Robben moved to the left, Sneijder taking the centre-mid role, and Real Madrid looked more confident after he came in. He could have scored in his first touch, had he been lucky, off a Gago through ball. The Whites attacked and won a free-kick in the wide left, Higuain drived in a powerful one into the box and Arjen Robben climbed over the Osasuna defence and got the better of Ricardo. Los Blancos equalised in the 84', the Dutchman's glancing header reaching the far corner of the net.
With just three minutes for the normal period to end, Real Madrid roared forward, this time through a quick move and pass, Ramos found himself right outside the box and acrobatically chipped it to the unmarked Gonzalo Higuain in the box. El Pipita took the ball in the half-volley and drived it past Ricardo into the net, Los Merengues win their 31st La Liga title. It was a dramatic end and it is ironic that the man who was criticised for his poor finishing has been the one who saved last three matches for them by scoring in all three coming off the bench! It is an incredible effort by the young Argentine who deserve full credit to his unbelievable performances lately.
The La liga has been won by Real Madrid, they won't have to wait till the match against Barcelona in the Santiago Bernabeu to know the results. Although the "conspiracy theory" would have supported the Whites winning the league by defeating Barca in the El Clasico, Schuster and his men would love to have Barcelona giving them a guard of honour instead. The decision to call up all 25 players including the injured Guti has paid off for the Real Madrid boss. He has lived upto his name and his 'liberal winning football' policy.