La Liga: Espanyol 1 Real Madrid 1
By Football News
Gonzalo Higuain rescued Real Madrid with an equaliser against Espanyol, but the 1-1 draw handed Barcelona their 22nd league title.
The Argentina international rose to meet a Luka Modric free-kick just before the hour to cancel out Christian Stuani's first-half opener, however Madrid's failure to secure all three points meant the La Liga title headed to Catalonia.
With the Copa del Rey final a week away, Jose Mourinho made five changes to the side that convincingly beat Malaga. Ricardo Carvalho, Angel Di Maria, Kaka, Alvaro Morata and Higuain all came in as the manager aimed to rest some key players for the showdown with Atletico Madrid.
Espanyol were unchanged from the side that fell to a 3-0 defeat to Sevilla in their previous match.
Di Maria had the best opportunity in the opening exchanges as he cut in from the right hand side and fired a low left-footed shot towards goal. The ball flew between Hector Moreno and Raul Rodriguez but Kiko Casilla saved easily.
The visitors lost impressive defender Raphael Varane in the 19th minute through injury. The 20-year-old Frenchman jarred his knee when tackling Wakaso Mubarak and was replaced by Xabi Alonso, with Michael Essien moving back into defence.
As Madrid reorganised themselves, Espanyol took advantage and punished some average defending to take the lead through Stuani.
Joan Verdu rose at the front post to meet a corner and his header was hooked back into the penalty area by Sergio Garcia, and Stuani pounced to fire beyond Diego Lopez for his seventh goal of the season.
Five minutes after the opening goal, the hosts should have doubled their lead, but Moreno's powerful header was ruled out for pushing. The Mexican rose above Alonso and sent an excellent effort into the top corner giving Lopez no chance, but the defender was adjudged to have fouled Alonso in the build-up.
Karim Benzema replaced Morata at the break but more defensive errors nearly gifted the home side a second goal five minutes into the half. Mubarak broke down the left and lifted a perfect cross for Sergio Garcia but before the striker could connect with the ball Nacho made a crucial clearance.
The introduction of Cristiano Ronaldo just before the hour lifted Madrid spirits and within seconds they were level, although the Portuguese forward was not involved.
Luka Modric fired in a free-kick from the left-hand side and Higuain rose above his marker to flick a header into the net, his 14th league goal of the season.
The visitors attacked with much more threat with Ronaldo in their ranks but a resolute Espanyol kept them out to hang on to a point.
The game ended on a sour not as Victor Sanchez was given a straight red-card for a poorly-timed challenge on Higuain.