Barça ace, Messi seals landmark Liga title

Lionel Messi has sealed Barcelona’s 26th Spanish title by coming off the bench to score the goal in a 1-0 win over Levante in front of a jubilant Nou Camp crowd.

The win marked a remarkable eighth La Liga crown in 11 years with cries of “champions” ringing out from the 91,000 supporters.

Barca captain Messi decided the game and the title in the 61st minute as he received a header from Arturo Vidal, effortlessly freeing himself from two defenders with his right foot before using his left to plant the ball into the far bottom corner.

“Messi was always ready to come on and I always knew he was going to play but we also have a game on Wednesday,” Valverde told reporters.

“He has to stay active and he scores goals everywhere he goes and he has won us this title.

“It is very difficult to win this title … We have done it two years in a row and it’s fantastic to see the fans celebrate the title like this at home.”

Messi, who became the first player to win 10 La Liga crowns with Barca and only the third player from any club to do so, hoisted the trophy into the sky before joining his teammates and their children on a lap of honour.

He had started on the bench as coach Ernesto Valverde had one eye on this week’s Champions League semi-final first leg against Liverpool.
But the talisman was introduced to the action with the game goalless at half-time, despite the best efforts of Philippe Coutinho who had an attempt hit the crossbar before he was replaced by Messi.

The Argentine needed about a quarter of an hour to have the desired effect, lighting up the stadium with his 34th league goal of the season in 32 appearances.

With 13 assists credited to him this season he has his footprints on more than half his side’s 86 league goals.
Levante hit the post in the final stages as Barca were left clinging on to their narrow advantage deep into stoppage time.

“Eight out of 11 titles will be very difficult to repeat because La Liga is so difficult, it has the best teams, the ones that are always fighting for European trophies so what we have done is historic,” midfielder Busquets said.

Barca lead the standings on 83 points after 35 games, an unassailable nine clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid because they have a superior head-to-head record.
Atletico accounted for Real Valladolid 1-0 courtesy of an own-goal by visiting defender Joaquin Fernandez in the 66th minute.

Diego Simeone’s Atleti are nine points clear of cross-town rivals Real Madrid, who play Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Athletic Bilbao and Alaves drew 1-1 while Celta Vigo trip to Leganes ended goalless.