La Liga - Thrilling Five Minutes May Decide La Liga Title
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

La Liga - Thrilling Five Minutes May Decide La Liga Title

real-madrid-soccer-ball.jpgSaturday's penultimate matches in La Liga provided the most exciting five minutes of football in recent memory.

At the top of the Spanish league, Real Madrid and Barcelona were even on points going into yesterday's matches, with the head-to-head tiebreaker going to Madrid. Third-place Sevilla were only two points back going in, but their 0-0 draw with Real Mallorca would leave their title hopes on life support.

However, Barcelona and Real Madrid would play out a thrilling drama some 300 km apart that would see reigning champions Barcelona with one hand on the trophy for almost an hour. An hour that would have an absolutely breathtaking finish.

With two minutes plus stoppage time remaining at Real Zaragoza, Real Madrid trailed their hosts 2-1. At the Camp Nou, Barcelona were putting the finishing touches on a 2-1 win over Espanyol.

A win that would give Barca a commanding, and most likely insurmountable, 3-point lead going into the final week of the season.

At La Romareda, the final moments of the Galacticos era were coming to an end, and desperation was obviously taking hold as Madrid pressed forward frenetically, looking for not one, but two goals.

David Beckham had seemingly re-injured his ankle and was hobbling; Sergio Ramos was cheating further forward than usual; and Mahamadou Diarra clattered into anyone from Zaragoza who dared touch the ball in the midfield.

If you love football, it was stirring stuff.

Just when it seemed impossible, after numerous chances had gone begging, Real Madrid breathed life back into their championship dream one more time.

Just as he had rescued them a few weeks before, it was Guti who finally cracked open the Zaragoza defense with a beautifully timed ball into space to Roberto Carlos on the wing.

The Brazilian crossed to an open Gonzalo Higuain, whose snap shot was saved by keeper Cesar Sanchez, seemingly denying Madrid for the last time.

But Ruud Van Nistelrooy would have none of it and crashed towards goal, stabbing in the rebound from just a few yards out.

Still, celebrations were somewhat muted as Madrid looked to restart quickly in an attempt to score again.

But it would only take twenty seconds or so before the muted celebrations turned to all-out jubilation.

News of an Espanyol equalizer at the Camp Nou reached the Madrid bench within seconds and Raul and Robinho were seen jumping up and down excitedly on the touchline.

Minutes later, the derby in Barcelona ended. And then the final whistle in Zaragoza set off wild celebrations for Real Madrid and their traveling supporters.

The 2-2 score-lines mean Real Madrid will now only need to secure a home win, or equal Barca's result, next Sunday against Real Mallorca to become champions.

With all that drama, you would have thought someone had won a championship yesterday.

And in truth, if the fates remain true to form next Sunday, both Real Madrid and Barcelona will surely look back on those five minutes yesterday and say that somebody did.


Also on the web:
Soccer: Zaragoza holds Real Madrid to a draw, same for Barcelona and Espanyol - by Rob Hughes

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