MADRID (AP) — Barcelona collected its 22nd Spanish league trophy on Saturday when Real Madrid played to a 1-1 draw at Espanyol.
Barcelona wrapped up a title that had been a foregone conclusion for months. Real Madrid’s draw gave Barca a seve-point lead in the standings. It’s the fourth domestic title in five seasons, and it comes at a time when some cracks are starting to show.
Barcelona was recently thrashed by a combined 7-0 score by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals, its first resounding defeat since former coach Pep Guardiola started its current winning era.
The stinging elimination from Bayern and a pair of defeats to Madrid this year has cast a degree of doubt over the Catalan club’s future just when it should be celebrating a stellar league campaign.
‘‘We have had a good season,’’ said Barcelona defender Jordi Alba. ‘‘In the Champions League semifinals we didn’t rise to the occasion and Bayern showed it is playing at an incredible level. But we had a good season anyway. It seems to me that the league title is underappreciated.’’
Madrid holds a record 32 league titles, but Barcelona has established itself as Spain’s most successful team over the past decade with six league titles in nine seasons. The last team other than Barcelona or Madrid to win the title was Valencia in 2004.
Lionel Messi was again the key component of Barcelona’s relentless title march. The Argentina international added three more milestones that will be tough to break to his already impressive resume.
Messi became the first player to be chosen world player of the year four times; he scored 91 goals in 2012 to surpass Gerd Mueller’s 40-year-old mark; and he has found the net in a record 21 straight league appearances to shatter the old mark that had stood at 10.
He has scored 46 goals so far even though he missed three games with a nagging right hamstring injury. He scored a record 50 league goals last season and could still better it.
LONDON (AP) — Frank Lampard scored twice to set Chelsea’s career scoring record, rallying the Blues to a 2-1 win at Aston Villa that pushed his club closer to a berth in next season’s Champions League.
Christian Benteke put Villa ahead in the 14th minute, but Lampard beat American goalkeeper Brad Guzan with a curling shot in the 61st minute and scored from close range in the 88th.
A 34-year-old midfielder, Lampard has 203 goals since joining Chelsea in 2001, one more than Bobby Tambling scored from 1959-70.
‘‘It means everything. It’s amazing,’’ said Lampard, whose contract expires at the end of the season. ‘‘The support I've had from teammates, you saw that at the end, and I'm thankful to every one of them because they’re the ones that put it on a plate for me sometimes. And the fans, they've been with me for a long time and were probably frustrated alongside me not getting there so I'm just delighted.’’
Chelsea (21-7-9) is third with 72 points with one league game left, five points ahead of Arsenal (19-7-10) and six in front of Tottenham (19-8-9).
American defender Eric Lichaj made his first start for Villa since an FA Cup match against Millwall on Jan. 25 and his first Premier League start since Dec. 29 versus Wigan.
Chelsea’s Ramires was ejected in the 45th and Benteke in the 58th by referee Lee Mason, both for their second yellow cards.
Chelsea defender John Terry left on a stretcher after an injury that could jeopardize his hopes of playing in the Europa League final Wednesday against Benfica. That will be the 68th game of the season for Chelsea.
Also, West Ham manager Sam Allardyce ended uncertainty about his future by signing a new two-year contract with the Premier League club.
BERLIN (AP) — American defender Steve Cherundolo has set a Hannover record for Bundesliga appearances.
The 34-year-old from San Diego, a member of the last three U.S. World Cup teams, appeared in his 299th Bundesliga game in a 3-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen, one more than the mark Juergen Bandura set from 1964-74.
Cherundolo joined Hannover in 1999, when it was in the second division, and helped it earn promotion to the Bundesliga for the 2002-03 season.
Hoffenheim lost 4-1 at home to Hamburg and remains in the relegation zone with one game left, two points behind Augsburg and Fortuna Duesseldorf.
Werder Bremen clinched Bundesliga status for next season with a 1-1 tie against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Already relegated Greuther Fuerth wasted an early lead and lost 2-1 to visiting Freiburg and became the first club in the Bundesliga’s 50-year history to go winless at home (0-13-4).Continued...