Real Madrid’s La Liga title hopes end with upset loss to Celta Vigo
Celta Vigo ended any lingering hopes Real Madrid had of Primera Division glory by claiming a 2-0 victory over Carlo Ancelotti’s men at Estadio Balaidos.
The capital club needed a remarkable set of results to go in their favour to take the title, although rivals Atletico Madrid and Barcelona’s failure to win on Sunday night gave them a superb opportunity to catapult themselves back into contention following draws in their last two fixtures.
But instead Celta claimed their third win on the bounce, Brazilian forward Charles’ capitalizing on two errors from Real to bag a brace and leave the visitors five points behind leaders Atletico with just one match remaining.
Perhaps more worryingly, Real are stuttering at the worst possible time. With the league gone, the Copa del Rey winners play Atletico in the Champions League final on May 24 and, should they fail to defeat Espanyol next time out, they will go into the game in Lisbon on the back of four games without a win.
Cristiano Ronaldo was absent due to injury, while Gareth Bale was an unused substitute for Los Blancos, who were lacking a creative spark in the opening stages.
While Marcelo’s early effort was blocked by Jonny, it was Celta who were largely on the front foot in the opening minutes, although the closest they came to an opener was when Charles fired wide from distance.
Rafinha, on loan from Barcelona, did test Diego Lopez from just outside the area, but the Real goalkeeper made a comfortable save, while at the other end Alvaro Morata’s effort from close range was excellently kept out by Sergio Alvarez.
Morata wasted a glorious chance as he struck wide from close range and his miss came back to haunt Real as the home side took a 41st-minute lead, with defender Sergio Ramos making a crucial mistake.
The Spain international slipped at the wrong moment, allowing Charles to run clear on goal before rounding Lopez and slotting into the net, despite the presence of several Real defenders.
Ramos tried to make amends after the interval, but he saw a shot blocked, while Morata’s strike from just outside the area was marvelously tipped away by Alvarez as Real started to take control of proceedings.
Ancelotti then made a double change as Fabio Coentrao and Asier Illarramendi were brought on for Arvalo Arbeloa and Sami Khedira, but Bale remained conspicuous by his absence.
For all their dominance, Real could not find a breakthrough and their task was made twice as difficult as Celta got a second. Once again they only had themselves to blame.
Charles seized on Xabi Alonso’s woeful backpass to nip in and score in the 63rd minute.
Coentrao was denied by another excellent save from Alvarez to preserve Celta’s two-goal lead, with Real now frantically pushing for a way back into the match.
Alvarez then parried away Illarramendi’s effort from just outside the area to ensure a forgettable night for Real.