Home Sports Real Madrid well poised to win Liga title

Real Madrid well poised to win Liga title


Madrid : Real Madrid are well positioned to clinch the Spanish football title after a round of heart-stopping games on the penultimate weekend of La Liga.

Real came from behind to snatch a 2-2 draw at lively Zaragoza with a second goal two minutes from time by top scorer Ruud Van Nistelrooy.

Just as the Dutchman was claiming a draw for Real, Espanyol forced a last-gasp, 2-2 draw at local rivals Barcelona.

The results leave Real and Barca tied, now on 73 points from 37 games, but with Real top and in control of their own fate due to the Spanish direct results system. Real can claim their 30th Liga title if they beat midtable Mallorca on June 17 at home.

"Our spirit tonight was incredible," said Real coach Fabio Capello. "We deserved at least to draw, if not to win."

Zaragoza twice went ahead through Diego Milito, first in the 31st minute after a handball by Real defender Ivan Helguera.

In the 56th minute, Van Nistelrooy made it 1-1 with a bouncing header on a centre from Sergio Ramos. Just seven minutes later, Milito put Zaragoza ahead again after a good run and pass by Pablo Aimar.

Real refused to give up and had plenty of chances to equalize. They finally did so in the 88th minute when Van Nistelrooy turned in a rebound for his 25th goal.

The Real players left the field celebrating, having just heard that Espanyol had forced a draw at Barcelona with two goals from little Raul Tamudo.

Had Barca been able to hold on against Espanyol, they would have gone into the final round two points ahead and in control of their own destiny. But they relaxed at the end and allowed Tamudo to turn in a clever pass from sub Francisco Rufete.

Against the run of play, Tamudo had put Espanyol ahead in the 28th minute on a pass from Ivan de la Pena.

Just before halftime, Lionel Messi made it 1-1 for Barca by poking the ball in with his hand, Diego Maradona-style. Espanyol protested furiously, but the goal stood.

Messi put Barca ahead 2-1 in the 56th minute after being set up by Deco. Barca then wasted chances to kill off the game, and Espanyol became braver as the minutes passed.

In the 89th minute, Rufete put through Tamudo with a clever ball, and the former Spain striker silenced the Camp Nou with a low equalizer.

Sevilla, meanwhile, saw their title chances dwindle with a 0-0 draw at Mallorca. The draw leaves Sevilla in third place on 71 points. It would take a victory next week and losses by the two Spanish giants ahead of them to pull off a miracle.

In fourth place on 65 points are Valencia, thrashed 4-2 by local rivals Levante, who thus avoid relegation. Villarreal thus push Atletico Madrid out of the UEFA Cup zone. Atleti crashed 3-2 at home to relegation battlers Celta Vigo.