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La Liga 2015: Real Pull Away Late, Down Espanyol 1-4

Turn out the lights. The Primera Division party is officially over for Los Blancos despite their resounding 1-4 victory over Espanyol. Madrid left the proud Catalan side in tatters on the strength of a blistering second half performance powered by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick. It was a nice result, but not enough to prevent that other Catalan squad from grasping the league crown.

Alex Caparros/Getty Images

The first half was a chippy, tightly played grind that saw Real enjoy a slight edge in possession 56% to 44%, with Espanyol firing seven shots at Keylor Navas to Real's six at Franciso Casilla. Despite a few near misses from Ronaldo the half would end scoreless as stomachs tightened across the Spanish capital when people noticed that Atletico and Barcelona were also stuck at zeros after 45 minutes.

Real picked up the tempo in the second half, steadily gaining momentum until Pepe slid a fine ball to a streaking Karim Benzema who played a smart, smooth ball to Cristiano Ronaldo who lashed it into the net, giving Real a deserved 1-0 lead. It was the Dark Invader's 43rd goal, a strike that moved him past the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano no less, and there was definitely blood swirling in the Costa Brava. Just whose blood was an open question for a brief moment after Lionel Messi scored the goal that would ultimately net FC Barcelona the title. Minutes after that goal, Keylor Navas' catastrophic howler allowed Christian Stuany, a player who along with Sergio Garcia troubled Real's backline the entire time he was on the pitch, to equalize as storm clouds began to gather apace.

Instead of shrinking, Los Blancos absorbed the blow like Muhammad Ali and a gorgeous looping ball from Asier Illarramendi dropped into the area for Marcelo who played a 1-2 with Ronaldo before blasting the ball emphatically into the net and restoring Real's advantage at 2-1. The Brazilian took over the match from there, unleashing a lovely rainbow of his own that fell directly into the path of Javier Hernandez who pulled it back for Ronaldo to punch home. It was 3-1 Real, but the sands were slipping through the glass all over Spain. Atleti had no answer for Barcelona and Cristiano's third goal will live on only in the stat sheets as Real will have a few long months to ponder such a huge missed opportunity.

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