SOCCER

Barcelona Wins Spanish League For 1st Time Since 2019, 27th Overall

May 14, 2023, 4:16 PM

Barcelona-2023-Spanish-League-Champions...

Players of FC Barcelona celebrate winning the LaLiga Santander Title after victory in the LaLiga Santander match between RCD Espanyol and FC Barcelona at RCDE Stadium on May 14, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

MADRID (AP)Barcelona won its first Spanish league title after the departure of Lionel Messi with a 4-2 victory against Espanyol on Sunday.

Robert Lewandowski scored twice to lead the Catalan club to its first league title since 2019.

The title was secured with four rounds remaining and two years after Messi left amid the club’s financial struggles.

The title celebrations were short-lived, though, as players had to rush into the locker room after a large group of Espanyol fans invaded the field from behind one of the goals and started running toward the Barcelona players who were singing and celebrating in the center. Security guards quickly intervened but riot police had to stand in front of the tunnel’s entrance to prevent the fans from going in.

Alejandro Balde and Jules Koundé also scored for Barcelona, which now has 27 league titles, eight fewer than Real Madrid.

The victory over city rival Espanyol gave Barcelona an insurmountable 85 points from 34 matches, 14 points more than Madrid, which won 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Barcelona has led since the 13th round and holds the league’s best defense with 13 goals conceded — 14 better than any other club. It also has 25 clean sheets.

“It’s a magnificent feeling, a feeling of job well done,” Barcelona coach Xavi said. “This is important to give the club’s project some stability. The league title shows that things have been done the right way and that we have to stay on this path.”

Barcelona won eight league titles in 11 seasons through 2019. It finished second to Madrid in 2020, then third — behind Madrid and champion Atletico — in 2021. It was second to Madrid last season.

Barcelona’s first title without Messi came in the Spanish Super Cup in January.

The club was yet to win a major trophy since president Joan Laporta took action to restructure its debt and revamp the squad with players like Lewandowski, Jules Koundé and Raphinha.

Lewandowski opened the scoring on Sunday from close range in the 11th minute after a cross by Alejandro Balde. The 19-year-old left back added to the lead nine minutes later off a pass by Pedri, scoring his first league goal with the club.

Lewandowski, the league’s leading scorer with 21 goals, added his second in the 40th after a low cross by Raphinha in a breakaway. Koundé scored the fourth in the 53rd with a header after a long pass by Frenkie de Jong. It was also his first league goal with the club.

The loss dealt a big blow to Espanyol in its fight against relegation. It stayed second-to-last, four points from safety.

Espanyol had won only once in its last 10 league matches, with a draw and eight losses. It was relegated in 2020 for the first time in nearly three decades, returning to the top flight in its first attempt as second-division champion.

Javi Puado scored Espanyol’s first goal in the 73rd and Joselu added the second in stoppage time as Barcelona players were getting ready to celebrate.

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Barcelona Wins Spanish League For 1st Time Since 2019, 27th Overall