Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane says clinching a first Spanish League title with Real Madrid in 3 years has made him happier than conquering the UCL. Los Blancos bagged the title with on game to spare as they defeated Villarreal CF in an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Benzema opened the score for Madrid in the first half after Casemiro won the ball and passed it to Luka Modric who in turn dispatched it to the Frenchman to eventually fire it through the legs of Villarreal goalie Sergio Asenjo.
In the second, half, Benzema doubled their lead after Sergio Ramos won a penalty which he took himself but passed the ball to former. The center-forward was encroaching and had to retake the penalty to register his 21st goal of the campaign. More drama came in the latter half when Vicente Iborra’s header reduced Madrid’s lead and Marco Asensio had a goal ruled out in additional time.
Zidane’s side have secured victory in all 10 their 10 fixtures following the resumption of La Liga in June. They head toward the penultimate tie of the season with an unsurmountable 7 pt lead over second-placed Barcelona.
“This is better than anything. It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga,” said Zidane.
“After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. After lockdown and everything, it’s astonishing.”
In a 6,000-seat empty stadium, the surroundings were not perfect for the celebration as Madrid lifted their first trophy since 2017 and now have eight more domestic titles than Barcelona. But this didn’t stop Zidane’s blokes pulling on shirts with “Campeones 34” printed on their backs as they lifted the trophy in the burst of ticker tape that colored the air and pitch.
“Today is one of the best days for me as a professional,” said Zidane. “After everything that happened, the three-month break, its fantastic what has been achieved.”
Los Blancos in this decade have not got the sufficient supply of Spanish League titles and were more focused with UCL ventures as the only managed to earn their 3rd in the last 9 seasons. Under Zidane’s tutelage during his first term with Madrid as a coach, Madrid sealed 3 European Cups in a row but also recorded 3 successive 3rd place finishes as arch-rivals Barca hand their solid grip on the domestic cups. However, Zidane was in charge the last time the bagged the domestic league title and made it his aim to lift the trophy again as he returned back to the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium midway through the season less than a year after his departure.
It appeared as if the Algerian-French’s side would not succeed in their attempt when football on all the levels across Spain blacked out due to COVID-19 pandemic in March and more importantly rivals Barcelona were leading the charts.
However, the team looked unstoppable since the return of the game and was in their usual touch on Thursday. In the end Benzema’s brace was enough to edge past Barcelona with an unassailable seven-point lead as they escaped the nervy last minutes. Blaugrana’s loss to Osasuna made Madrid’s path clearer as they confidently threw Zidane into the air to celebrate the victory led by their trainer.
“It has been a strange season but our objective was very clear once the league restarted,” said Ramos afterwards.
“We wanted to win every game. This is the reward for all our hard work. 34 leagues, my fifth title. Zidane has been key, he is the captain of the ship and led us from the start of the season – we have always felt protected with Zizou. He is a unique coach.”
Zidane focus will now shift his readiness to UCL opponents Manchester City. The Spanish League champions after savoring the second league win under French manager will travel to Etihad Stadium on Aug 7, 2020 and will require a marauding run to overcome the 2-1 deficit in the return leg.
“The Champions League is the Champions League but La Liga makes me happier, because La Liga is what it’s all about,” said Zidane.
“This is tremendous feeling because what these players have done is incredible. I am lost for words because I am too emotional. The players are the ones who have fought for this. It is true I have played my role but they are the ones who believe in what they are doing.”
Los Blancos have been playing at their reserve pitch while Santiago Bernabeu is currently being renovated and the victors will not able to showcase their usual open-top bus parade to the Cibeles fountain in the center of Madrid because of novel coronavirus safety measures.
“It’s strange for everybody, we would have liked to have been with our fans at Cibeles but it’s not meant to be. But I am sure everyone is happy in their homes tonight. The fans always love to see the team win and we have done this for them.”