Real Madrid relinquished their grip on the Liga title as they could only muster a draw at Espanyol to hand the trophy to their opponents’ local rivals Barcelona.
Madrid needed a win to keep the title race, at least in theory, alive for another day. But the championship that has appeared destined for the Camp Nou since before the winter break has now been confirmed to be heading back to Barcelona after a single season with Los Blancos.
Gonzalo Higuain’s second-half header to cancel out Christian Stuani’s opener looked like it might provide the springboard for a come-from-behind victory bit it was not to be.
After a week of further unrest in the Madrid camp, manager Jose Mourinho elected to make a host of changes with next week’s Cop del Rey final with Atletico Madrid firmly in mind.
It was Espanyol that had the better of the opening period and in the 23rd minute they took the lead.
Madrid were unable to deal with a corner from the right, allowing Sergio Garcia to help the ball back into the danger zone at the back post and Stuani was on hand to strike a left-footed shot past Diego Lopez.
The Madrid keeper got the better of Stuani minutes later, though, when he denied the Uruguayan after he had got through one-on-one with Lopez. Espanyol were also left frustrated when a header into the net from Hector Moreno was controversially ruled out after a tussle with Xabi Alonso.
Cristiano Ronaldo came off the bench to try and provide a spark early in the second period and within seconds Madrid had drawn level. Luka Modric supplied a superb delivery into the heart of the penalty area from a free-kick on the left and Higuain got up well to direct a header low into the far corner past Kiko Casilla.
In truth, Madrid rarely looked like getting a winner and Espanyol thoroughly deserved a point, although their performance was marred by a red card for Victor Sanchez in injury time after a reckless tackle on Higuain.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.