Barcelona dropped 2 massive points against Espanyol which let Real Madrid off the hook as they clawed out a 2-2 draw against Zaragoza. Barcelona had been leading into the 89th minute and Real were losing but an amazing reversal of fortunes saw both games end in a draw.
Barca fell behind to a wonderfully worked Raul Tamudo goal. Del la Pena played him in with a lovely through ball that caught the Barca backline napping and Tamudo coolly finished to give Espanyol a lead. In a gross and blatant display of cheating, Lionel Messi, scored off a handball, which meant Espanyol went into the break at 1-1. Messi scored again in the second half to put the championship within touching distance. However, in the 89th minute, Talmudo was put clear again to claim his second goal of the game. You can watch the highlights and see the “Hand of God” copycat goal for yourself.
At approximately the same time as Talmudo was levelling the score at the Nou Camp, Ruud van Nistelrooy was dragging Real Madrid back from a one-goal deficit. Diego Milito opened the scoring for Zaragoza in the 32nd minute when Ivan Helguera managed to foul Pablo Aimar and handle the ball in the same sequence. Milito converted the resulting penalty. Madrid did not score until 12 minutes after the break, when van Nistelrooy headed home a Sergio Ramos cross. Milito scored again, to take his tally to 21 for the season, in the 63rd minute before the late heroics from van Nistelrooy.
It was the seventh consecutive match in which van Nistelrooy had scored, which equaled a club record set by Hugo Sanchez. With his 25 league goals, he is now within range of catching Golden Boot leader Francesco Totti who wrapped up the Serie A campaign with 26 goals for AS Roma. The Golden Boot is the prize for Europe’s most prolific domestic goalscorer. Sid Lowe of the Guardian has posted an excellent article on how van Nistelrooy has been the key figure in Real’s resurgence.
This is the second time this season that Real have snatched points late to deny Barcelona top spot. If you recall during Round 34 of matches, Madrid were drawing 3-3 with Espanyol in the 89th minute and Barcelona were winning 1-0 against Real Betis. Then Madrid score and so do Betis. Another occassion where one minute saw two goals, four points and title fortunes change. Barca have definitely been in lesser form than previous seasons and it will be interesting to see what changes occur over the summer.
This has been an outstanding La Liga season with plenty of drama and it all wraps up next weekend as Barcelona travel to Gimnastic while Real host Mallorca. Sevilla are still in the hunt for the title if both Madrid and Barcelona should lose and they win on the final Jornada (Spanish term for one complete set of matches for all the teams in a division – the literal translation is “day”).