Barcelona secured a 25th La Liga title with a Lionel Messi-inspired 4-2 win over Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday evening.
As Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi gave Barca a two-goal advantage in the first half, it looked as though the silverware would be heading to Catalonia in the most comfortable of fashions.
However, Lucas Perez and Emre Çolak’s strikes either side of half-time could have placed a little doubt in the minds of the traveling contingent; who knew a single point would have been enough to cling their seventh crown of the last decade.
But inside the final 10 minutes, Messi struck twice more from close range to not only relegate Depor to the Segunda Division but send Andres Iniesta off as a double-winner and still possibly part of the first-ever invincible side in Spanish footballing history.
The visitors found themselves under a little more under pressure than they would have anticipated in the opening stages, with Depor leaving their respects to the guard of honor they offered ahead of the first whistle.
However, despite a somewhat even start, it took Barcelona just seven minutes to find themselves with an advantage on the scoreline as Coutinho initiated the title-winning celebrations with a stunning opener.
With Andres Iniesta watching on from the substitutes’ bench, Ousmane Dembele found space on the right-hand side of the area before teeing up his Brazilian team-mate, whose first-time curling attempt beat Ruben comfortably before nestling into the top left-hand corner of the veteran’s net.
After taking the lead, Barca found themselves very much in control; however, shortly after the quarter-hour mark, Deportivo thought they had leveled things up as Lucas Perez swept home from close range following a superb Marc-Andre ter Stegen save, only for the officials to rule out the equalizer after a long delay.
The on-loan Arsenal striker found the ball at his feet after the German’s stop from a headed effort, and after slamming his strike into the back of the net, he wheeled away in celebration.
But as his team-mates embraced the 29-year-old, referee Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea signaled the goal would not stand after a considerable deliberation with the linesman; deeming Fabian Schar to be involved with play while in an offside position, much to the bemusement of Clarence Seedorf on the sidelines.
However, after the scare, Barca came close to immediately hitting back, with Messi seeing his inch-perfect free-kick well saved by Ruben and Coutinho flashing wide from long-range.
But just five minutes after Schar spurned another clear opportunity for the hosts at the other end, the Argentine maestro made the opposition pay for their sloppy finishing by lashing home from a tight angle to end his spell of two games without a goal against Depor.
Luis Suarez picked up possession wide on the right-hand side before spotting his team-mate’s run, which he found with a beautifully weighted flick over the top of the defensive line; and Messi made no mistake in his volleyed finish to double the Catalonian’s advantage.
But that two-goal buffer was reduced to one again almost immediately as Perez, this time, legally found a way past ter Stegen.
The visitors seemed to switch off at the back for a moment as Borja Valle was slipped into the area before the 25-year-old slid a low ball across the face of goal, which the Spanish frontman cooly clipped home to bring his side back into the contest.
After conceding, Ernesto Valverde’s men attempted to take the sting out of any further Branquiazuis comeback by controlling possession at a pedestrian pace; which they did with great effect until referee Bengoetxea brought an end to an action-packed first half.
After the break, Barcelona assumed control of the contest once again but failed to create anything meaningful during their spell of dominance.
And it was the visitors’ turn to be punished for their lack of attacking prowess shortly after the hour-mark as Colak brought the underdogs back on level terms with yet another tidy finish.
Play was distributed to the right-hand side of the Barca area following a quick break, and after some swift and clinical one-touch passing, the 26-year-old Turkey international was afforded space to slide his shot past the motionless ter Stegen; who could only watch on as his side’s lead slipped away.
But Barcelona’s advantage was almost restored 10 minutes from time as Suarez and Messi combined on the edge of the area to leave the Uruguayan one-on-one with Ruben; however, the custodian got down well to stop the bending attempt.
However, the veteran goalkeeper could do nothing moments later as the Argentine ace all but wrapped up the title with a simple finish from close range.
Again, the two attackers, who have been such a ruthless force throughout the entire campaign, combined, but unlike the instance just seconds before, the former Liverpool striker chose to tee up his team-mate for the finish rather than take on the strike himself, to which Messi obliged and tucked home the La Liga championship-winning goal.
However, the night was not over for the European Golden Shoe-chaser, as three minutes later the 30-year-old rounded off the night, and a sublime team move, with a deft finish to grab his hat-trick and showcase how dominant Valverde’s men have been across the 34 league games to date.