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The capital club made light work of a potentially tricky trip to San Mames on Wednesday and claimed their first Primera Division title since 2008 - against all the odds

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By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor

It was perhaps his greatest challenge. When Jose Mourinho arrived in Spain in the summer of 2010, the brief was to beat Barcelona, restore Real Madrid to the top in Spain and, somehow, overcome a side described by many as the greatest footballing force in history. The bar had been set incredibly high.

But at just the second time of asking, Mourinho and Madrid have done it. Having fallen short despite a tremendous total of 92 points in 2010-11, the capital club have gone one better in the current campaign. Cibeles awaits; greatness and glory beckon.

San Mames looked a difficult destination: Madrid have succumbed at La Catedral on numerous occasions in the past. But it never looked likely tonight. Cristiano Ronaldo missed an early penalty and Sami Khedira got away with a handball at the other end, but then Gonzalo Higuain lashed home and Mesut Ozil made it two following a precious pass from Cristiano. The game was already long over when Ronaldo added a third in the second half to complete a 3-0 victory.

The title had really been won in Barcelona, of course. Having seen their lead cut to just four points ahead of the recent Clasico, Madrid knew defeat at Camp Nou could severely harm their chances of claiming La Liga for the first time since 2008. But they produced when it mattered most to leave Catalan dreams in tatters and move seven clear with just four fixtures remaining, as Ronaldo hit the winner 10 days ago in Catalunya.


Sending out a message | Madrid fans 'silence' Pep at Cibeles on Wednesday night

A subsequent success at home to Sevilla ensued and a Wednesday win would see Madrid crowned champions, even though a Lionel Messi-inspired Barca thrashed Malaga 4-1 earlier on.

So having won the Copa del Rey in his first season in charge, Mourinho has led Madrid to La Liga in 2011-12. Slowly, but surely, they have worn Barca down and despite the disappointment of losing to Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals last week, the Portuguese coach claimed winning the title would represent a great campaign for his spectacular side. Madrid fans would surely agree.

Madrid may have lost 3-1 at home to Barca in December and suffered disappointing draws against Villarreal, Valencia and Malaga recently, but over the course of the campaign they have been cooler, calmer, and more consistent than the Catalans. The table does not lie: Madrid are worthy winners.

Barca, to their credit, made things interesting as they closed a 10-point deficit to just four ahead of the Clasico, but ultimately, Madrid's strength in depth proved priceless. And although they too were reliant on the talents of their finest footballer, Mourinho's men seemed to depend less on Cristiano than Barca on Messi.

Madrid's top Primera Division scorers in 2011-12
 
Ronaldo - 44 goals
Higuain - 22 goals
Benzema - 20 goals


Ronaldo, of course, was the talisman, scoring numerous important goals: the winner at Barca was fundamental, while his brilliant backheel in a 1-0 success at Rayo was also key, as was his stunning hat-trick at Atletico. But there have been heroes all over the pitch for Madrid in 2011-12, from Iker Casillas in goal, through to Sergio Ramos and Pepe in defence, Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira in midfield, and 20-goal forwards Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain up front.

Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain have racked up well over 100 strikes in all competitions, with 86 of those coming in La Liga so far. And in total, Madrid have now scored 115 goals in the Primera Division this term, smashing the previous mark held by John Toshack's team of 1989-90. Barcelona, by the way, have also surpassed that total - but they won't catch Mourinho's Madrid.

And now they can't catch them in La Liga, either.

How La Liga looks with two games to play

  P W D L Pts
Real Madrid
36 30 4 2 94
Barcelona 36 27 6 3 87

Barca had needed a last-gasp leveller from Messi to earn a point at San Mames earlier on in La Liga, but Madrid made light work of their fixture on Wednesday. Not even Ronaldo's nervy penalty allowed them to sway - this one never looked in doubt.

So Mourinho claims his seventh league title in 10 years - and in four different countries. The Portuguese has done it again. He can now make the unique claim of having captured the title in the continent's top three leagues - England, Italy and Spain. And having confirmed he will stay at the Bernabeu for at least one more season, things suddenly look brighter at Real Madrid than they have done for quite some time. For the moment, they are worthy winners and Barca are beaten. Mission accomplished in formidable fashion. Roll on 2012-13.

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