MADRID - Barcelona were gifted their 19th Primera Liga title without kicking a ball on Saturday when second-placed Real Madrid were beaten 3-2 at Villarreal. Robert Pires, Cani and Joan Capdevila scored for the hosts, delivering Barca's second piece of silverware in a week after the Catalans overcame Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the King's Cup final on Wednesday. Barca can make it a treble by defeating Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome on May 27. "The first person I have congratulated is (coach) Pep Guardiola, and I sent a message to the whole squad," Barca president Joan Laporta told the club's television station. "They have had a magnificent season, one of the best in Barcelona's history. I am convinced they can achieve even more this season, for example, the league record of 107 goals scored." Barca have scored 103. Real have 78 points and two games left, eight points shy of Barcelona who visit Real Mallorca on Sunday. The visitors looked short on confidence and ideas at the Madrigal and fell behind when Pires headed home Ariel Ibagaza's cross in the 17th minute. Real coach Juande Ramos threw on Gonzalo Higuain at halftime and the Argentine striker's first intervention was to cross low for Rafael van der Vaart to sidefoot the equaliser from close range. NEAR POST Cani drove in at the near post to make it 2-1 and although Higuain levelled with two minutes to go, Capdevila pounced on a late fumble from keeper Iker Casillas to send Real to their third consecutive defeat. "Barcelona have to be congratulated. They have played very well and deserved the title," Real coach Ramos told reporters. "Real played to a very high level in the second half of the season, but once their options for title went, it took a heavy toll." Earlier, Sevilla and Deportivo Coruna's European aspirations were dented when they were held to draws by sides fighting to avoid relegation. Third-placed Sevilla drew 0-0 at Osasuna with the visitors on the back foot for much of the game. Both sides hit the crossbar and after Sevilla had Ndri Romaric sent off in the 82nd minute, Osasuna defender Sergio Fernandez was red-carded in stoppage time. Sevilla, on 64 points, are five clear of Valencia and Villarreal as they bid to secure the third automatic Champions League qualification place. Valencia visit Atletico Madrid (58) on Sunday. Deportivo are seventh on 57 points after striker Ivan Riki scored a late equaliser against former club Getafe to secure a 1-1 home draw. Roberto Soldado had nodded the visitors in front just after the restart. Getafe are 14th with 38 points, one more than Osasuna and four above the relegation zone.
17 May 2009
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