FC Barcelona are champions of Spain for the 24th time after topping Granada 3-0 on Saturday at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes in week 38 of the 2015-16 La Liga season.
Luis Suárez once again was the hero for the Catalonians, with his third hat-trick in four matches with goals in the 22nd, 38th and 86th minutes. With Barcelona clinging to top spot in La Liga with four matchdays left, it was Suárez who led the way forward with 12 goals in his team’s final four matches, starting with four goals in Barcelona’s 8-0 win over Deportivo on April 20. It was only fitting then that Suárez was the protagonist for Barcelona in Saturday’s title clincher.
For Barcelona it is their fifth league title in seven seasons, and they will no look to claim a league-cup double when they face Sevilla next Sunday in the final of the Copa del Rey.
There were no surprises in manager Luis Enrique starting XI as the Asturian fielded his strongest possible lineup. From the start it was clear that Granada were going to make Barcelona work for the win, with home goalkeeper Andrés Fernández making a sensational stop on a Gerard Piqué header that looked destined for the back of the net inside the first 10 minutes.
Moments after Andrés’ stop, news filtered through of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal at Riazor, meaning for the moment Barcelona were staring a second place finish. It made for a very nervy spell for Barcelona, who almost looked to be trying too hard, but finally their genius brand of football emerged, led by Neymar who played a cutting pass into Jordi Alba and the cross from the left-back found Suárez all alone at the far post. The Uruguayan had the easiest of tap-ins into the net from four yards out to hand Barcelona a 1-0 lead and regain their place atop the table.
The goal gave some relief to Barcelona, but with their lead still just a single goal there was still some anxiousness surrounding each Granada run into the Barcelona half. The Andalusians proved a feisty foe and made Barcelona work for every ball, however there was nothing the hosts could to stop Suárez from doubling the margin shortly before half-time.
Javier Mascherano looped a pass down to Dani Alves down the right flank, and just as the ball looked like it was going to cross the end line, the Brazilian adroitly curled his boot around the ball to send in a cross, which was met by a Suárez header right in front of Andrés at the near post for the goal.
Bolstered by their two-goal advantage, Barcelona looked to add a third at the start of the second half to effectively put not only the match on ice, but the celebratory champagne that was surely awaiting Luis Enrique’s men in the locker room.
Still, Barcelona had to be wary of Granada, and if not for a diving stop Marc-André ter Stegen when Fran Rico was in on goal just shy of the hour mark, it could have easily been a one-goal game heading into the final half-hour.
Granada’s belief grew as the second half wore on, and soon it was the home side carving out most of the scoring chances, rather than the team that was on the cusp of clinching the league title.
Yet as the minutes continued to tick away, any thoughts of a late Granada charge disappeared and slowly extinguished Real Madrid’s slim hopes of a last day miracle. Barcelona defence, ridiculed all season long for their inopportune lapses, proved to be an anchor in the final 30 minutes, ensuring that there would be no “Cara de Granada” headlines across Spain on Sunday morning.
Barcelona finally sealed their championship and it only made sense for Suárez to be the one to do it, as he fired in Barcelona’s third goal just minutes from time, with Neymar unselfishly placing the ball on a silver platter to score. For Suárez, the third score capped an astoundingly productive season in front of goal, as the former Liverpool man amassed a mind-numbing 40 goals during the 38-game season, putting a bow on what was a memorable campaign in Spain’s top-flight.