BARCELONA — Atlético Madrid claimed their first Spanish league crown in 18 years after coming from behind to draw 1-1 away at rival Barcelona on Saturday. Despite the long drought, this was Atlético’s 10th La Liga title.
Alexis Sanchez’s stunning strike fired Barca into the lead at the 33rd minute, but Uruguayan Diego Godín’s header four minutes into the second half was enough to give Atlético the point they needed to become the first side other than Barca and Real Madrid to win La Liga in 10 years. Costa Rica will face Godín and Uruguay in Group D in the World Cup on June 14
A point for both sides means that Barca finish the season ahead of third-placed Real Madrid, thanks to a better head-to-head record, and three points adrift of Atlético.
“There is an enormous feeling of happiness that you cannot explain,” said Atlético boss Diego Simeone.
“I want to thank the players and the people that always believed in us.
“There is no replacement for hard work. The team has understood that, done the work and today is one of the most important days in the history of Atlético Madrid.”
Goal hero Godín added that Simeone had fueled his players’ belief when they were trailing at half-time.
“We have fought all year and the work we have done is amazing. To last 38 games against two great teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona is incredibly difficult,” he told Canal Plus.
“The boss told us at halftime that we were going to score a goal. In the end, football has been fair to us.”
Barca, meanwhile, finish a disappointing season without a major trophy for the first time in six years.
“Congratulations to Atlético. They are deserving champions,” said Barca captain for the day Andrés Iniesta.
“We had our chances until the final game but they have been better and there is nothing more to say. We are hurt to lose the league in the final game.”
The visitors had started brightly but were dealt a huge blow after just 15 minutes when top scorer Diego Costa pulled up with the recurrence of a hamstring injury.
Arda Turan was then also forced off with a hip injury as Adrían López and Raúl García entered the fray.
Despite piling bodies forward in the game’s final stages, Barca failed to carve out another clear scoring opportunity. Atletico held on down the stretch to extend their unbeaten run against Barca to six games this season, and claim the championship.