What could have been a day filled with tension became a cruise toward a sixth La Liga title in eight seasons for Barcelona thanks to a hat-trick from Luis Suárez that secured a 3-0 victory over Granada. Barcelona went into the final round of fixtures a point ahead of great rivals Real Madrid and needing a victory in Granada to ensure the trophy remained in Catalonia. When Madrid took the lead inside seven minutes, suddenly Barcelona were in second place and needing a response.
That response came swiftly and decisively courtesy of the the man who has been so instrumental to Barcelona’s title run in. Since taking one point from four games to see a 12-point lead over Real Madrid cut to one last month, Suárez has helped Barcelona emphatically steady the ship and get over the line.
It was fitting therefore that he played the starring role on Saturday. There had been some early nerves on display among Luis Enrique’s side as many anxiously looked around fearing that the title could be snatched from their grasp at the last. But Suárez sucked the tension away 22 minutes in when tapping in from six yards after Jordi Alba got in behind down the left and squared perfectly.
It was a similar story seven minutes before halftime. This time a long pass from Javier Mascherano found Dani Alves scampering in behind down the right side. The Brazilian full-back did superbly to reach the ball and hook it back to the near post, where Suárez typically escaped his marker to head home.
And with time expiring, and Barcelona’s triumph all-but secured, Suárez put it beyond any doubt when slotting into an unguarded net after Neymar unselfishly laid the ball into his path.
The goals meant that Suárez had found the net 16 times in the five wins that took Barcelona to the title. They also put him on 40 goals for the season and five clear of Cristiano Ronaldo to claim the Pichichi scoring title.
The victory could have been more emphatic, with Suárez just unable to stretch onto the end of an Alves cross in the second half and Neymar seeing his effort well saved by Granada goalkeeper Andres Fernandez. Still, while Real Madrid would go onto win comfortably at Deportivo, there was never any real danger that Barcelona were going to be pegged back. The closest Granada came to breaching Barcelona's defenses came when David Barral struck the post in injury time. But by then the title was already decided.
In the end what had the potential to be a dramatic climax to the Primera Division season, just as had been the last four weeks, ended up being an anti-climax. And Barcelona were perfectly happy with that. Despite Real Madrid winning 12 successive matches to end the campaign, Barcelona remain top dogs in Spain.
In the year of Johan Cruyff’s passing, it means Barcelona have now secured 14 La Liga titles in 26 years since the great Dutchman led the club to what was just their third title in 31 years in 1990. It is a fitting tribute to the man whose influence has contribute so heavily to the success of the modern Barcelona. And, while Barcelona disappointed in relinquishing their Champions League crown at the quarterfinal stage, they still have the chance to win a double when taking on Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final next Sunday.