Pregnant Woman, Child Among Dead In Canaries Migrant Boat Tragedy

Spain,-Canary-Islands,-Lanzarote-Island,-Famara-beach
Spain,-Canary-Islands,-Lanzarote-Island,-Famara-beach.

 

At least four people died, including a woman thought to be pregnant and a child and another four were missing after a migrant boat overturned off Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, rescuers said on Friday.

The vessel was carrying 49 people when it hit a rocky area just off the island’s northern shores, with rescuers pulling 41 people to safety, emergency services said.

“Three people died, among them two women, one of whom we believe was pregnant,” Enrique Espinosa, head of Lanzarote’s emergency services, told AFP.

Rescuers searching for five survivors later found another body, he said: “It was a boy, about eight years old.”

Among the survivors were 20 men, 17 women, two children and two babies, the emergency services said.

The boat overturned close to the shore near Orzola, a village on the northern tip of the island, in a stretch of sea that is dangerous to navigate, he said.

“It is a very rocky area and… if you don’t know it well, you will crash straight onto the reef.”

The incident happened late on Thursday when there were a lot of people out in the streets who all rushed to help.

“It was at 10:00 pm on a summer evening and a lot of people were in the street. Thanks to that, everyone jumped into the water to try to rescue them,” he said.

Espinosa said the migrants were sub-Saharan Africans who told rescuers they had set off two days ago from the Moroccan town of Tantan, which lies 250 kilometres (160 miles) east of Lanzarote.

Rescue efforts resumed earlier on Friday but were being hampered by rough seas, he said.

Overnight, another two boats carrying 110 migrants managed to reach two other islands in the Canaries, the emergency services said.

Among them were 96 men, eight women and six minors.

Migrant arrivals on the Atlantic archipelago have surged since late 2019 after increased patrols along Europe’s southern coast dramatically reduced crossings to the continent via the Mediterranean.

10 boats missing at sea

At its shortest, the sea crossing from the Moroccan coast is around 100 kilometres (60 miles), but it is a notoriously dangerous route because of strong currents. Vessels are also typically overcrowded and in poor condition.

Last year, the International Organization for Migration said 850 people had died en route but Caminando Fronteras, Spanish NGO which monitors migrant flows, said it was twice as many, giving a figure of 1,851.

On May 31, the NGO, which serves as a crucial contact for alerting the coastguard to vessels in trouble at sea, raised the alarm about 10 boats that had set sail from Western Sahara and Senegal carrying 481 people.

“They have disappeared,” a spokeswoman for the NGO told AFP on Friday, saying there had been no trace of the boats, four of which set sail from Dakhla, five from Laayoun and one from Senegal.

“We have spoken to relatives and even in some cases with the boats which are missing at sea. We know the weather in the last few weeks has been quite rough in the area and that many boats have disappeared.”

Last year 23,023 migrants reached the Canaries, a figure eight times higher than in 2019, interior ministry figures show.

So far this year, 5,734 migrants have survived the perilous journey to the Spanish archipelago, more than double the number for the same period last year, figures to June 15 show.

Barcelona Raise The Stakes In Madrid Derby After Osasuna Win

 

Barcelona cranked up the pressure on Sunday’s Madrid derby by beating Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday night to edge two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid in La Liga.

Lionel Messi set up both goals in Pamplona as Jordi Alba hammered home in the first half before the 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba came off the bench to curl in an impressive shot late in the second.

“Thankfully Leo gave me the pass and I don’t know how I cut in and shot with my left foot, I’m just glad it went in,” Ilaix said. “I will never forget it, I will take that goal to my grave.”

Ilaix’s strike was his first goal in La Liga and another breakthrough moment for a Barca youngster, 24 hours before the club hopes a brighter future can begin under a new president.

Before the winner of the elections — contested by Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa — is confirmed on Sunday night, Atletico will face Real Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Barcelona will surely be hoping for anything other than a home win.

A few weeks ago, Ronald Koeman’s side looked too far adrift in the title race but 10 victories out of 11 have shot them back into contention, even if Atletico remain in the driving seat with two games in hand.

“Any result is good for us,” said Koeman.

After coming from two goals down to beat Sevilla after extra-time in the semi-final of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, Barcelona now have one trophy, and perhaps even a domestic double, in their sights.

Their success in recent months has owed much to a talented crop of youngsters, with Ilaix — a dynamic but technically gifted midfielder — the latest to emerge.

“Every time he comes into the team he gives the team something extra,” said Koeman. “Because of his personality, his energy, most of all he’s good with the ball, and physically he’s a strong boy. He’s gaining ground and showing he can be more with the first team.”

Barca faced some nervy moments early on as Jonathan Calleri tried an ambitious lob from distance before Ruben Garcia’s curler from the edge of the area required an athletic save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Messi shot wide and then set up the opener, drifting in from the right and spotting the scuttling Alba racing in behind on the opposite side. Messi clipped a pass through three Osasuna defenders for Alba to collect and he lashed it high and in from the angle.

Garcia deserved an equaliser soon after for his first touch alone, a sumptuous cushioning of a long ball forward, but Ter Stegen was again there to deny the finish.

There was more control about the second half but Barcelona needed a second to make it comfortable and substitute Ilaix seized his moment, shaping to shoot with his right before coolly rolling onto his left and whipping his shot into the corner.

While Barcelona sustained momentum from their midweek victory in the cup, Sevilla failed to bounce back, instead sinking to another loss away at Elche earlier on Saturday.

Raul Guti and Guido Carrillo sealed a crucial 2-1 win for Elche, with Luuk de Jong adding a late consolation for Sevilla, who have now lost three consecutive matches in eight days.

They sit six points ahead of Real Sociedad in fifth. Elche climb to 17th, two points above the bottom three.

Spanish Police Arrest Rapper Holed Up In University

Catalan regional police Mossos D’esquadra remove people who were hindering the arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel at the University of Lleida, 150 kms (90 miles) west of Barcelona, on February 16, 2021. (Photo by J. Martin / AFP)

 

Spanish police on Tuesday arrested a rapper who barricaded himself inside a university after he was controversially sentenced to nine months in jail over a string of tweets, television images showed.

Pablo Hasel, 32, had been given until last Friday night to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence after being convicted for glorifying terrorism, slander and libel against the crown and state institutions.

At issue was a series of tweets attacking the monarchy and accusing police of torturing and killing demonstrators and migrants, with his case sparking protests in Madrid and Barcelona.

But Hasel, who is known for his radical leftist views and whose real name is Pablo Rivadulla, on Monday barricaded himself inside the University of Lleida, in the northeastern Catalonia region, with dozens of supporters to avoid arrest.

Spanish television showed images of police escorting him out of the university on Tuesday.

“They will never make us give in, despite the repression,” Hasel said, his fist raised as he descended a staircase, wearing track pants and a sweatshirt and carrying a duffel bag.

A Catalan police spokesman told AFP that officers entered the university early Tuesday “to enforce the judicial ruling” on his arrest.

Police in protective gear removed chairs, garbage bins and other objects that had been set up as barricades to reach the spot where the singer was barricaded with his supporters.

Hundreds of artists have signed a petition demanding Hasel’s release, including film director Pedro Almodovar, Hollywood actor Javier Bardem and folk singer Joan Manuel Serrat.

Hasel said on Twitter Monday: “I’m locked inside the University of Lleida with quite a few supporters so they’ll have to break in if they want to arrest me and put me in prison.”

 

Catalan rapper Pablo Hasel is arrested by police at the University of Lleida, 150 kms (90 miles) west of Barcelona, on February 16, 2021 where he had barricaded himself.  (Photo by J. Martin / AFP)

Last week, Spain’s government pledged to reduce the penalty for “crimes of expression” such as the glorification of terrorism, hate speech, insults to the crown and offences against religious sensibilities in the context of artistic, cultural or intellectual activities.

But in an interview with AFP last week, Hesel said he had no intention of turning himself in, accusing the government of making empty pledges.

“I refuse to go of my own accord and knock on the prison door,” he said.

“So they’ll just have to come and kidnap me, which will show up the state for what it really is: a phoney democracy.”

Far-left party Podemos, the junior partners in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s minority coalition government, criticised Hesel’s arrest, saying all those  who “consider themselves progressives should feel shame”.

“Are their eyes covered? There is no progress if we refuse to recognise our existing democratic shortcomings,” the party added in a tweet.

The case echoes that of another rapper called Valtonyc who fled to Belgium in 2018 after being convicted of similar crimes.

Spain is trying to have him extradited but Belgium has refused on the grounds that his offences are not a crime under Belgian law.

Gibraltar Still Hanging After Brexit Deal – Spain PM

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks to the press as he arrives at the EU headquarters’ Europa building in Brussels on December 10, 2020, prior to a European Union summit.
JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP

 

Madrid and London have yet to reach agreement on the status of Gibraltar, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday after Britain and EU finally sealed a Brexit trade deal.

The easy flow of people and goods across the border from Spain which underpins the economy of Gibraltar, a tiny British territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, risks ending when Britain leaves the EU at midnight on December 31.

“Spain and the United Kingdom are continuing dialogue to reach an accord on Gibraltar,” Sanchez said on his Twitter account after hailing the accord between Brussels and London.

Madrid, London and Gibraltar have been working out the status issues separately from the 10 months of Brexit trade negotiations that finally ended Thursday’s deal.

“For us… the clock is still ticking,” said Gibraltar government chief Fabian Picardo, while adding that he was “optimistic that we will be able to finalise that agreement.”

The enclave is entirely dependent on imports to supply its 34,000 residents, and each day some 15,000 people cross into Gibraltar from Spain every day to work, accounting for half of the territory’s workforce.

Without an accord, the movement of goods between Gibraltar and Spain will be subject to customs procedures from January 1, with unwanted economic consequences.

READ ALSO: UK-France Border To Stay Open At Christmas 

Picardo told AFP late last month that Gibraltar was considering joining the visa-free Schengen area — which Britain has never been part of — to avoid this hurdle.

“We are looking for an accord that will allow maximum fluidity,” he said.

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713 following a military struggle, but Madrid has long wanted it back.

In 2013, a dispute over an artificial reef in waters claimed by both sides sparked a war of words that triggered months of gridlock at the border after Spain intensified checks, which ended only after Brussels stepped in.

Madrid Inaugurates Huge New ‘Pandemic’ Hospital

General view taken of the Enfermera Isabel Zendal new hospital on its inauguration day in Madrid, on December 01, 2020. Madrid inaugurated a huge, controversial new hospital built in just three months and capable of treating more than 1,000 patients during a health emergency. 
OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 

Madrid on Tuesday inaugurated a huge, controversial new hospital built in just three months and capable of treating more than 1,000 patients during a health emergency.

The Isabel Zendal complex, which covers 80,000 square metres (860,000 square feet) cost nearly 100 million euros ($120 million).

Its purpose is to ease pressure on hospitals in the Madrid region, which has suffered one of the most deadly outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

Isabel Diaz Ayuso, the conservative leader of Madrid’s regional government who kicked off the project, attended the opening of the vast complex near Barajas airport on the city’s eastern flanks.

Wires could be seen dangling from the ceiling of the still-empty hospital, with the first patients expected to arrive next week.

So far, the region has recruited 116 medical staff to work there, but has not said whether it intends to contract more.

The hospital “is adapted to suit any situation we might go through” said Diaz Ayuso, indicating its intensive care unit would be “the most advanced in Madrid”.

Set to open in stages, Isabel Zendal will be mainly used to reduce pressure on other hospitals so they can gradually recover non-Covid-19 activity, from waiting lists to surgeries and medical care consultations, the region said last week.

But the hospital’s construction has sparked opposition, with dozens of healthcare professionals demonstrating outside the new building to criticise a project they say is “useless” at a cost that came in twice the initial budget.

“They’re inaugurating a hospital which we see as unnecessary. There are unused beds in other hospitals,” said Olga Álvarez, a lab technician at the city’s Gregorio Maranon hospital and member of the MATS health workers union.

The money used to build Isabel Zendal could have been funnelled into resources that were “really necessary like contact tracers, personnel or material,” she added.

“A public hospital can’t be bad news for anyone, except for those with a political agenda,” remarked Diaz Ayuso, pointedly referring to the absence from the opening of Salvador Illa, health minister in Spain’s leftwing government.

The Madrid region’s hospitals were overwhelmed during the first wave, prompting the military to set up a vast field hospital in an exhibition centre to cope with soaring patient numbers.

Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, so far counting more than 1.6 million cases and losing over 45,000 lives.

Of those figures, one in four deaths occurred in the Madrid region as well as just over a fifth of all infections.

Madrid Court Rejects Partial Lockdown As ‘Harmful To Basic Rights’

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud
A file photo of a court gavel.

 

Madrid’s top regional court on Thursday rejected a partial lockdown imposed at the weekend on the capital and nine nearby towns to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus infections.

A court statement said it “had denied the ratification (of the measures) on grounds they impacted on the rights and fundamental freedoms” of the 4.5 million residents affected by the closure, which went into force late Friday night.

Under the restrictions, residents are not allowed to leave the city limits except for work, school or medical reasons as the region battles a soaring infection rate of well over 700 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain — in itself the highest rate in the European Union.

Without the measures being ratified by the court, police have no legal grounds on which to issue fines for non-compliance — which they have not done until now, awaiting the court’s decision.

-AFP

Spain Publishes Decree For Partial Lockdown Of Madrid

People queue to be tested at a temporary testing centre for the novel coronavirus in the Spanish Basque city of Gernika, on August 25, 2020. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

 

Spain’s government published a decree extending drastic restrictions across the capital on Thursday, with partial lockdown measures to come into play within 48 hours, despite fierce opposition from Madrid’s regional authorities.

After a tense standoff lasting days, the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday evening said it had reached an agreement with most of Spain’s regions on the imposition of tough restrictions in areas where the virus is spreading rapidly.

Currently, that is only Madrid, which is struggling with a rate of 780 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain — which in itself is the highest in the European Union.

But the region’s rightwing government, which voted against the move, denounced the measures as “not legally enforceable” and said it was looking into a legal challenge.

The government and the regions “cannot impose anything on us and certainly no like this,” Madrid leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso told EsRadio on Thursday.

“What we will do is go to the courts as we did during the rollback to defend the legitimate interests of Madrid’s residents,” she later told MPs in the regional parliament.

Since the national state of emergency ended on June 21, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

According to the decree, the agreement “is obligatory for all regions.. within a maximum of 48 hours”.

Concretely, it allows for the imposition of tough restrictions across the whole capital, which is home to 3.2 million people, and nine other towns, in line with those already in force in several badly hit where people cannot leave their neighbourhood except for school, work or medical reasons.

Residents are not confined to their homes and can circulate freely within their own area although parks are closed and bars and restaurants have to operate with limited opening hours and seating capacity.

Spain is currently fighting a second wave of the virus, which has now killed more than 31,000 people and infected close to 760,000 in what is the highest infection rate within the European Union.

-AFP

Madrid Widens Restrictions, One Million People Now Under Partial Lockdown

 

 

A million Madrid residents were under partial lockdown Monday as the region moved to slow the spread of new infections, drawing fire from the Spanish government for not going far enough.

The city and the surrounding region is at the epicentre of a second wave of coronavirus that is sweeping Spain, which has claimed more than 31,000 lives and infected over 700,000 in the highest infection rate in the European Union.

Since midnight, the new measures impose mobility restrictions on another 167,000 people who can only leave their neighbourhoods for work, school or medical reasons. But they are not confined to their homes and can move freely within their district.

Police were conducting random checks to ensure compliance with the new rules, which now apply to nearly one in six of the region’s 6.6 million residents.

An initial confinement order affecting 850,000 people was rolled out a week ago, largely affecting working-class areas in the city’s southern suburbs where on Sunday hundreds turned out in protest over what they see as discrimination.

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21, responsibility for public healthcare and managing the pandemic has been transferred to Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

But the central government is deeply unhappy with the regional government’s handling of the crisis in Madrid, epicentre of the outbreak in Spain, urging its leaders to adopt more drastic measures and threatening to step in if they refuse.

“Working with the government, the region’s responsibility is to contain the expansion of Covid infections,” Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya told Antena 3 television on Monday.

Over the past week, Spain has registered the highest number of new cases within the EU with a rate of nearly 300 per 100,000 inhabitants — but in the Madrid region, the figure is currently more than 700 per 100,000.

AFP

Atletico Madrid Announce Signing Of Luis Suarez From Barcelona

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match against Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP

 

Atletico Madrid announced the signing of Barcelona forward Luis Suarez late on Wednesday, confirming the Uruguayan striker is set to continue playing in La Liga rather than joining Juventus in Italy.

Barcelona said that Atletico had agreed to pay six million euros for Suarez, who left his last training session in tears on Wednesday having been told over the summer that he was no longer required by new coach Ronald Koeman.

Since joining Barca from Liverpool in 2014, Suarez has won a host of trophies, including the 2015 Champions League and four Liga titles.

He leaves as the club’s third-highest scorer with 198 goals behind Cesar Rodriguez (232) and Lionel Messi (634).

The move to Barcelona’s La Liga rivals follows a failed attempt to join Juventus.

Juve coach Andrea Pirlo disclosed last week a deal was unlikely because of delays in the Uruguayan’s bid to get an Italian passport.

On Tuesday, prosecutors in Perugia said they suspected Suarez of cheating to pass his Italian language test with the aid of examiners suspected of helping him.

The exit of the 33-year-old from Camp Nou comes as Koeman attempts to reshape Barcelona.

As well as Suarez, the Dutchman has shown the exit to Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, while French defender Samuel Umtiti is also set to leave.

Spanish television channel Gol showed Suarez wiping away tears with his sleeve as he drove off after saying his last goodbyes to teammates at Barcelona’s Sant Joan Despi training centre.

Spain Calls On Madrid Residents To Restrict Movements Due To COVID-19

People queue to be tested at a temporary testing centre for the novel coronavirus in the Spanish Basque city of Gernika, on August 25, 2020. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

 

Spain’s health minister on Tuesday called on residents of Madrid to limit their movements and social contacts to the “essential” to put the brakes on a surge in COVID-19 infections, a day after new restrictions came into effect in part of the region.

Spain is struggling to contain a second wave of the virus, which has already infected over 670,000 people and claimed over 30,000 lives, one of Europe’s highest tolls.

Madrid has become the epicentre of the contagion with a rate of infection of nearly 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks — nearly three times the national average.

“I would recommend residents of Madrid to limit to the maximum their movements, that they scrupulously respect the measures dictated by the health authorities in the region and minimise their movements to what is essential and their contacts to those closest to them,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said during an interview with radio Cadena Ser.

His comments come a day after a partial lockdown came into effect on some 850,000 people in the Madrid region — mostly in densely populated, low-income districts in the south — who account for 13 percent of the region’s population of 6.6 million but 24 percent of virus infections.

The restrictions which came into force on Monday prevent people from entering or leaving the affected areas, except for work, education or to seek medical care but they can move around freely within their zone.

The affected areas have all counted more than Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants — around five times the national average, which in itself is the highest in the European Union.

The regional government of Madrid, which is responsible for health care, also reduced the maximum size of permitted social gatherings across the entire region from ten to six.

Many epidemiologists have expressed doubts about the effectiveness of Madrid’s new measures but Illa said he believed they could help control the spread of the virus and that it would not be necessary to declare a state of emergency in the region, a step which would allow the government to confine people to their homes.

Since the central government ended its state of emergency on June 21, lifting all national lockdown restrictions, responsibility for public healthcare, and managing the pandemic has been left in the hands of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

AFP

Partial COVID-19 Lockdown In Madrid As US Deaths Near 200,000

Commuters wearing face masks sit on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid on April 13, 2020 as some companies were set to resume operations at the end of a two-weeks halt of all non-essential activity amid a national lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.

 

A million people in and around the Spanish capital on Monday were under new “stay-at-home” orders to contain another coronavirus surge, as the US death toll neared 200,000.

But unlike other nations that are tightening curbs to battle outbreaks, India pressed ahead with its measures to kickstart its battered economy, reopening the Taj Mahal and some schools on Monday — despite having the second-highest caseload in the world.

The restrictions in Madrid will last for two weeks starting Monday, affecting people living mainly in densely populated, low-income neighbourhoods who will be allowed only to travel for essential reasons such as work, medical care or taking children to school.

On Sunday, people took to the streets in some of the affected districts in protest against the new measures.

They sported placards reading “No to a class-based lockdown” or “They’re destroying our district and now they’re locking us up”.

“We think that they are laughing at us a little bit,” said nurse Bethania Perez, as hundreds protested against the measure.

“We will still be able to go to work, and go into other areas that are not under lockdown, where we might be able to raise the infections and also still be vulnerable to infections in our own area.”

Authorities in Spain — among the worst-hit nations in the world — have insisted the step is necessary because virus cases in those districts were much higher than the national average.

Global coronavirus infections are rapidly approaching 31 million, with more than 958,000 deaths.

– ‘We have to get used to it’ –

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved most of New Zealand to its lowest virus alert setting on Monday, saying the country was edging towards eliminating Covid-19.

The Pacific nation has recorded just 25 deaths in a population of five million and has been widely praised for its virus response.

In India, however, infections are surging with tens of thousands of new infections being reported every day.

But with the economy reeling, the government has gradually eased what was once among the world’s strictest lockdowns — despite warnings from some experts about the virus spreading across the vast nation of 1.3 billion people.

“So many people lost their job during the lockdown. People have suffered a lot and it is time the country opens up fully,” said bank official Ayub Sheikh, 35, who was visiting the Taj Mahal with his wife and baby daughter.

“We are not afraid of the virus. If it has to infect us, it will… I don’t think it is going to go away soon. We have to get used to it now.”

In poorer, crisis-hit parts of the world, the pandemic has piled on even more suffering.

In Iraq tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims participated in the annual mourning ceremonies of Ashura despite the government urging citizens to not attend large gatherings.

“Iraq has been through so much misery — from war to torture to imprisonment to forced emigration and now the coronavirus pandemic,” said Sheikh Hassan Dhakeri, a cleric in the shrine city of Karbala.

– ‘The pand-Emmys’ –

The United States remains the hardest-hit nation in the world, with more than 6.8 million cases and deaths approaching 200,000.

The pandemic has unleashed vast destruction on the world’s biggest economy, with millions left jobless, and President Donald Trump facing intense criticism of his handling of the virus.

Trump has expressed confidence that a vaccine would be ready by October — a claim contradicted by his administration’s top health expert.

In the absence of a prophylactic, all public gatherings carry a serious transmission risk.

That worry impacted the biggest TV awards show in America on Sunday, as the Emmys ceremony was held in a mostly empty venue in Los Angeles — with host Jimmy Kimmel dubbing them “the pand-Emmys”.

The theatre was filled with cardboard cutouts of A-list celebrities, and around 130 nominees joined via video link. The awards were handed to the winners by presenters dressed in hazmat suits styled as tuxedos.

Kimmel signed off saying: “To all the winners tonight and all the nominees, I’ll see you guys at the sad Zoom after-party.”

AFP

Real Madrid Draw Relegates Leganes And Messi Claims Golden Boot

 

Newly-crowned La Liga champions Real Madrid dropped points for the first time since the season’s restart on Sunday in a dramatic 2-2 draw that was not enough to save Leganes from relegation.

Leganes, who needed to beat Madrid and hope Celta Vigo failed to win against bottom club Espanyol, almost pulled off a miraculous escape but could not find a winner at the Butarque.

The draw means a rotated Madrid side surrendered the perfect record of 11 victories out of 11 since Spanish football came back from its coronavirus-enforced suspension while Karim Benzema fell short of Lionel Messi in the battle for the golden boot.

Gareth Bale was left out of Madrid’s squad completely for what might have been his last La Liga fixture for the club. Zinedine Zidane said afterwards it was a “technical decision”.

Messi had earlier scored twice in a 5-0 win over Alaves, enough for him to claim a record seventh ‘Pichichi Trophy’ and to give Barcelona a boost ahead of the return leg of their last 16 Champions League tie against Napoli next month.

The double took Messi’s league tally to 25 goals for the season and put him four clear of Benzema, who endured a quiet night against Leganes, with Sergio Ramos and Marco Asensio on target.

The odds were always against Leganes but a miracle looked possible when Roger Assale equalised with 12 minutes left to find a winner.

But chances were missed and a penalty appeal was turned down, meaning they join Real Mallorca and Espanyol in Segunda next season.

“The lads are broken,” said Leganes coach Javier Aguirre. “We had it within our grasp.”

Real Sociedad and Granada, meanwhile, took the last two Europa League spots, with Getafe and Valencia missing out. Villarreal had already secured fifth place.

Granada thrashed Athletic Bilbao 4-0 and qualification caps an incredible season for the club, who were only promoted from Segunda last term.

“Our aim was to stay up so to finish in the Europa League is a dream for us,” said Granada striker Roberto Soldado.

Real Sociedad snuck into sixth place after Adnan Januzaj’s 87th-minute goal clinched a 1-1 draw away at Atletico Madrid.

Barca believe in Euro glory

Messi finishes as La Liga’s top scorer for a record seventh time, pulling clear of Telmo Zarra’s six while playing for Athletic Bilbao in the forties and fifties.

“I’m never that bothered about the individual prizes and I would have preferred it to have come with a league title like before,” added Messi.

Setien said on Saturday he still believes Barcelona, at their best, can win the Champions League next month.

And a sparkling attacking display certainly gave a glimpse of what is possible, even if Napoli in the last 16, and potentially Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals, will offer a completely different test.

There could be fitness concerns for Setien too ahead of the second leg against Napoli. Clement Lenglet hobbled off with what looked like a groin problem, with Antoine Griezmann and Samuel Umtiti already out injured.

But Setien has increasingly been putting his faith in youth and the 20-year-old Puig impressed again in midfield while 21-year-old Ronald Araujo gave a composed, albeit largely unchallenged, performance in defence.

The 17-year-old Ansu Fati opened the scoring at the near post before Puig teed up Messi to stride through and finish.

Luis Suarez capped a superb move by heading in his 17th league goal after Jordi Alba had volleyed Messi’s pass across, with another Puig through ball allowing Nelson Semedo to lash in a fourth.

Messi had the last word with a smart finish on the half-volley.

Madrid looked to have the game won when Asensio finished off Isco’s pass but Leganes pulled level as Assale nipped in to set up a dramatic last 10 minutes.

With Celta still being held, they only needed a goal to survive and Javier Aviles might have got it only to miskick at the back post and then failed to connect from a corner.

Replays showed Luka Jovic touched the cross with his hand but referee Guillermo Cuadra was not convinced and even goalkeeper Pichu Cuellar going up for a 94th-minute corner could not give Leganes the goal they needed.