The La Liga title belonged to Barcelona well before the home side took on Real Valladolid at Camp Nou on Sunday afternoon, but the league had to finish out the schedule despite the champion already being decided.
Barcelona took an early lead on a Pedro goal and had a 2-0 advantage at halftime after a Real Valladolid own goal. However, a Victor Perez penalty goal in the final minutes helped add a thin layer of intrigue at the pitch on Sunday before Barca escaped with a 2-1 victory.
Barcelona now have 94 points in La Liga play, and with two matches to play, they have a chance to reach the elusive 100-point club before the end of league play and the 2012-13 season.
AS.com had a tweet after full-time to celebrate another Barca victory:
The home side was also awarded its La Liga trophy post-match.
Playing without Lionel Messi, Barca took the lead in the 21st minute. Pedro put the home side on the board, getting an absolute gift after Jesus Rueda made a poor pass in Real's own end. Xavi Hernandez stole the ball near midfield, ran the break and found Pedro for the opening score.
Sphera Channel posted this tweet showing fans the opening goal:
As noted by FCBarcelona (fan page), the assist for Xavi was his 10th of the season in all competition. The goal was Pedro's ninth of the year in all competition:
Controlling the pace and the flow of the game for most of the first half, Barcelona rarely gave Real Valladolid any chances to make this game interesting. The home side got several corners on sloppy play from the away side, including one in the 42nd minute that led to the game's second goal.
Xavi's corner kick turned into a Marc Valiente own goal and a 2-0 lead before anyone actually in attendance at Camp Nou could blink. The home side had a comfortable home lead at halftime, despite playing a keep-away strategy for most of the first 45 minutes.
101GreatGoals posted this link of the Valladolid gaffe on Twitter:
Little changed from the first to second half.
Rain plagued the stadium for most of the afternoon, and it helped suck the wind out of Camp Nou while the match was taking place. The second period saw Barcelona turn on the jets a little bit more, but Pedro and Xavi both missed chances to add a third goal during the course of the half.
Barcelona paid for that late, as Perez got into the box on a solid run and cut the deficit to one after a penalty shot caused by a Martin Montoya foul in the 88th minute. It wouldn't be enough, though, as Barcelona escaped with a rather easy 2-1 victory.
In the stat department, Barcelona dominated, getting 14 corners to Real Valladolid's two and holding possession 71 percent of the match (via WhoScored.com).
There are only two La Liga fixtures left for both Barcelona and Real Valladolid before the sport transitions into thinking about the 2013-14 season, but it felt like both sides were already there for most of the match on Sunday—almost like a friendly. Barcelona had chances to score for most of the match, while Valladolid had very few.
The story of this match was the lack of intensity from both sides for most of the evening. Barca are coasting at this point in the season. And with very little to play for except momentum for next year and long-term bragging rights, it's hard to see them giving their greatest show at this stage in the season.
Without Messi, it's nearly impossible to fathom.
However, Barcelona still have a chance to put up 100 points in La Liga play this season—a mark that would truly help place this group of players into a rare class after their efforts this season.
Let's take a look at some grades and what's next for both of these clubs.
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona: A-
Always a catalyst for the Barca attack, Iniesta managed to be one of the few Barcelona players capable of getting the fans off their behinds at Camp Nou.
He dazzled with a few dribbles and even had a chance to set up his teammates in the Valladolid end several times, but teammates missed chances to score and Barcelona were unable to add a third goal on the afternoon.
Either way, Iniesta managed to have a nice afternoon.
Jesus Rueda, Real Valladolid: D+
It's a harsh grade for the defender, but his pass in his own end that opened up the scoring was absolutely inexcusable. It helped set the tempo for Barcelona after it looked like this match would be there for the taking, and only a late Perez goal helped turn the match into anything but utter domination.
Rueda did manage to play solid defense on several of the Barca attackers, but it would've been a different game if he'd avoided that turnover in his own end.
Xavi, Barcelona: A
Xavi was involved in both goals, including the assist to Perez that opened up the scoring and the corner kick that found its way into the net on the own goal.
He took two shots, was one of the most effective passers in keeping the ball with Barca for most of the match and comes out of this game with a grade that several of his teammates will be getting post-match.
Jaime, Real Valladolid: B-
Pedro's first goal looked like a bad piece of goaltending, as Jaime let it slip right between his legs for the five-hole shot.
However, he bounced back strong the rest of the match, stopping Xavi, Pedro and David Villa from doing anything to add that third goal in the second half. He had several two-handed saves and managed to turn a poor start into a strong finish.
|G||Victor Valdes ||B+|
|D||Martin Montoya ||B|
|D||Javier Mascherano ||B|
|D||Gerard Pique ||B|
|D||Jordi Alba ||A|
|M||Sergio Busquets (off 64')||A|
|M||Xavi Hernandez ||A|
|M||Andres Iniesta (off 76') ||A-|
|F||Cesc Fabregas (off 83') ||B+|
|M||Thiago Alcantara (on 64')||B+|
|M||Jonathan Dos Santos (on 76')||B-|
|F||Cristian Tello (on 83')||C|
|D||Mikel Balenziaga ||C+|
|D||Jesus Rueda ||D+|
|D||Marc Valiente ||C-|
|D||Carlos Pena ||B|
|M||Alvaro Rubio (off 85') ||B-|
|M||Víctor Perez ||B-|
|M||Omar Ramos ||C+|
|M||Daniel Larsson ||C+|
|F||Óscar Gonzalez (off 68') ||C|
|F||Javi Guerra (off 77') ||C|
|F||Alberto Bueno (on 68')||C-|
|F||Manucho (on 77')||B+|
|M||Lluis Sastre (on 85')||B-|
The La Liga title sits firmly with Barcelona, even though there are two more games on the schedule before the 2012-13 league season is officially over.
Barca wrap up by traveling to face Espanyol on May 26 and then will return to Camp Nou on June 1 for the season finale, which will pit the home side against Malaga before the summer transfer period really stars heating up.
Real Valladolid also have two more matches before the season is officially over. The side will travel back home to Estadio Nuevo José Zorrilla on May 26 for a showdown with Celta Vigo and then will hit the road against Mallorca to complete the La Liga slate.
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