Jose Mourinho's men broke yet another record on Sunday as they reached three figures in the Primera Division with a 4-1 win over Mallorca, but there was a big shock at El Madrigal
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
But there was also sadness. Racing Santander had long been doomed to the drop and Sporting Gijon were widely expected to follow them. Not Villarreal, though, surely? The Yellow Submarine had seemed unsinkable. Then again, that's just how they described the Titanic - and we all know how that one ended.
One hundred years after history's most famous vessel went down, so too did Villarreal. Meanwhile, Madrid hit four more goals in their record-breaking campaign to seal an all-time high of 121 strikes in La Liga, an unprecedented 100-point total and a new mark of 32 for Primera Division victories in a single season.
It was Madrid's first Liga title in four years. Their last triumph came in 2007-08 and that season, Villarreal came second. Then, there was an open-top bus in Vila-Real to celebrate the side's best-ever top-flight return and last term, the Yellow Submarine finished fourth, earning praise from both Mourinho and Guardiola. Could anyone challenge the top two teams? Villarreal could, Pep said.
But they couldn't and are now not likely to for a long, long time. The club sold Spain midfielder Santi Cazorla to Malaga in the summer and lost star striker Giuseppe Rossi to not one but two cruciate ligament injuries this term. Without those two, the squad looked bare. Reality bit.
That sinking feeling | Villarreal have endured a miserable 2011-12Villarreal still had their moments, notably holding both Barcelona and Madrid to draws at El Madrigal, but Miguel Angel Lotina failed to inject enough energy into the side after taking over in March. And after taking Deportivo down last season, it was a familiar feeling for the 54-year-old coach.
Villarreal lost out at home to Atletico Madrid as man-of-the-moment Radamel Falcao struck the only goal of the game, but it was Raul Tamudo who really did the damage. The former Espanyol striker, who almost single-handedly denied Barcelona La Liga with a derby double in the penultimate round of fixtures at Camp Nou in 2006-07, headed home in the 93rd minute to condemn the Yellow Submarine to Segunda, a most improbable location for a team considered among European football's finest just 12 months ago.
Six points from their last six games told a tale, however, as Villarreal were leapfrogged by a Zaragoza side who won five of their last six to miraculously stay up. Down with the Yellow Submarine went Sporting Gijon as Javier Clement suffered his fourth relegation as coach and Racing Santander, well adrift at the bottom for some time now.
Sporting sacked previous coach Manolo Preciado earlier this term and that decision now looks a questionable one. Just over a year ago, Preciado's Sporting famously ended the nine-year unbeaten home record held by Mourinho in league matches, while Racing somewhat surprisingly drew with Real at El Sardinero earlier this term. At the end of La Liga, however, the Cantabrians found themselves a massive 73 points adrift of the champions.
So while some suffered, Sunday night belonged to Malaga, in the Champions League for the first time in their history, to Zaragoza, Rayo and Granada for securing salvation, and to Madrid, statistically the greatest team La Liga has ever seen.
||IN NUMBERS: La Liga 2011-12
3 - Valencia finished third for the third season in a row, but coach Unai Emery is leaving Mestalla this summer.
4 - Malaga's fourth-placed finish is their best-ever Primera Division return.
5 - Miguel Angel Lotina has now seen five of his teams relegated as coach. Clemente has taken four teams down.
13 - The number of seasons Villarreal have spent in Primera. Unlucky.
15 - Zaragoza picked up 15 points from a possible 18 in the last month to escape the drop.
19 - Cristiano Ronaldo's headed goal against Mallorca means he becomes the first player ever to score against all 19 rivals in a single Liga season.
27 - Racing Santander finished with 27 points, a massive 73 behind champions Madrid.
32 - Madrid claimed their 32nd title and a record 32nd win from their 38 games in 2011-12.
50 - Barcelona's Lionel Messi set a new Pichichi record with his half-century of league goals. With a Copa del Rey final still to play, he has 72 club goals this term.
60 - Ronaldo ended the season with 60 goals in all competitions, including 46 in La Liga.
100 - Madrid have set a new points record by reaching three figures on Sunday. No side in Spain nor in Europe's biggest leagues has managed such a haul.
121 - Mourinho's men also set a new mark for goals scored in the top flight, smashing the record held by John Toshack's Real side in 1989-90.
152 - Pep Guardiola took charge of 152 league games as Barcelona coach, winning 116, drawing 25 and losing just 11 times in total.
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