July 17 (UPI) -- Star striker Karim Benzema scored twice to lead Real Madrid to a win against Villarreal, which sealed the Spanish soccer team's La Liga title for 2019-2020.
Madrid had been in a back-and-forth fight for the crown with rival FC Barcelona prior to the 2-1 triumph Thursday in Madrid. Barcelona sustained a shock loss to Osasuna Thursday in Barcelona. Barcelona had won the crown in Spain's top league in back-to-back campaigns before this season.
"This is a reward for our hard work, determination and balanced approach," Madrid star defender Sergio Ramos told reporters. "When you go about things in the right way, you end up reaping the rewards.
"This is worthy of real praise, despite what people might say. It's been a different sort of season after what happened, but after the lockdown we were clear about the fact that we'd have to win all of our games to have a shot of winning the title."
Madrid right wing Luka Modric recovered a loose ball in Villarreal territory to ignite the first scoring sequence. Modric dribbled at the top of the box before he slid a pass to the right, ahead for Benzema. The Madrid striker used his first touch to smack a shot between the legs of Villarreal keeper Sergio Asenjo.
Madrid took the one-goal edge through the halftime whistle before Benzema doubled the lead with a penalty kick score in the 77th minute.
Villarreal defender Mario then received a pass on the right flank in the 83rd minute to set up his squad's lone tally. He took a look at the Madrid box before he lofted a cross toward the far post. The service landed on the head of Vicente Iborra, who flicked a shot into the far-post netting.
"It's huge. It's a constant battle," Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane said. "There are 38 games, and only at the end can you achieve something great like [Thursday]. I'm extremely thankful to the players, first and foremost, because they're the ones fighting out on the pitch.
"I have my role and I'm with them, but it's a team effort. This is a huge achievement, it's incredibly emotional. It's very tough to win the Spanish league, very tough indeed."
Madrid battles Leganes in the final game of their La Liga campaign at 3 p.m. EDT Sunday in Leganes, Spain. The La Liga champs then take on Manchester City in the second leg of a round of 16 Champions League affair Aug. 7 in Manchester, England.