Madrid (AFP) – La Liga’s longest season ended on Sunday after 12 months and an 11-game sprint finish, with Real Madrid being crowned champions for only the third time in 12 years.
Here, AFP Sport takes a look at 10 of the best moments from the domestic campaign in Spain:
Aduriz’ perfect start
La Liga’s goal of the season was arguably its first as the 38-year-old Aritz Aduriz delivered a dramatic 89th-minute winner against Barcelona with an incredible bicycle kick. Aduriz had announced this would be his final season before retiring and it was the perfect start to a long farewell.
Fati explodes into life
Ansu Fati was 16 years and 304 days old in August when he became the youngest ever player to score a goal for Barcelona. The forward’s header, six minutes after coming on against Osasuna, sent Spanish football into a frenzy and two weeks later he scored again while becoming Barca’s youngest ever starting player.
Clasico overshadowed by protests
For the first time in 17 years, a Clasico ended goalless but the match was overshadowed by what Catalan independence protests outside. Fans saw smoke drift over the stands while outside fires burned, objects were thrown and riot police tried to restore order. This was the Clasico that was postponed in October due to unrest in Catalonia but two months later, tension remained.
Messi’s Eibar quadruple
There was talk of a drought as Messi went without a goal in four games but he made up for lost time by scoring four goals against Eibar in March. Messi hit a hat-trick within 40 minutes, which was his 36th La Liga treble, and his ‘poker’ took the Argentinian to 20 goals against Eibar in just 11 league matches.
Bale punished for Wales jibe
Gareth Bale’s relationship with Real Madrid has long been complicated but matters came to a head in November, when Bale celebrated behind a banner that read “Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that Order”, indicating his list of priorities. Bale insisted it was a joke, not initiated by him, but Madrid’s fans expressed their disgust with screeching whistles when Bale came on their next game.
Unionistas breach Madrid
Their fans stayed long after the final whistle to sing and applaud, even though Unionistas de Salamanca had just lost in the Copa del Rey. The feeling was of a success after watching their team, launched in 2013 by its supporters, go toe-to-toe with Real Madrid. Unionistas sat 56 places below their opponents and while an incredible night ended in 3-1 defeat, Alvaro Romero’s goal will never be forgotten.
Silent derby in Seville
The one match most synoymous with fans in Spain was the first to kick off without any as La Liga returned from its three-month suspension with Sevilla against Real Betis. The usually hot, fiery, frenetic Seville derby became the test case for Spanish football in front of empty stands as the game began to adjust to the new normal after the coronavirus pandemic.
Benzema’s Valencia volley
Benzema’s volley in Real Madrid’s 3-0 win over Valencia last month was another contender for goal of the season, a brilliant piece of skill followed almost instantly by a stunning finish. He feathered the ball mid-air with one foot while simultaneously lifting it over defender Hugo Guillamon, before smashing it with the other into the top corner.
Aspas sinks Barcelona
Barcelona’s title challenge included many stumbling blocks but the moment that turned the tide was Iago Aspas’ curling free-kick that earned Celta Vigo a last-gasp point in June. Aspas exploited Barca’s poorly positioned wall by bending the ball inside the near post and celebrated with his shirt off while yelling at empty stands.
Ocampos heroics in goal
Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos scored one goal as a winger and saved another as a goalkeeper while preventing Eibar’s goalkeeper from scoring an equaliser. After putting Sevilla in front against Eibar this month, Ocampos took the gloves for the final few minutes due to an injury to Tomas Vaclik. Eibar keeper Marko Dmitrovic ventured up for a late corner and almost scored, only for Ocampos to make a crucial save during an incredible end to the match.
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