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Real count seconds towards the title

In a short space of time, Nistelrooy gives Real Madrid a last gasp equaliser in their 2-2 draw at Real Zaragoza.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2007 02:08 IST

It was 17 or 18 seconds depending on your watch but the Spanish title dramatically fell into Real Madrid's grasp on Saturday, in roughly the amount of time it takes to run the length of a football pitch.

In that short space of time, Ruud van Nistelrooy gave Madrid a last gasp equaliser in their 2-2 draw at Real Zaragoza barely a minute before the whistle.

The news then came through that Espanyol's Raul Tamudo had performed a similar trick to hold Barcelona to a 2-2 draw in the Nou Camp and almost certainly end their reign as Spanish champions next Sunday.

"Saved in 17 magic seconds," said the front page of the pro-Real Spanish sports newspaper As on Sunday.

"Never seen in 18 seconds. Madrid lose the title, Barca were winning and then two goals that have almost changed history," added Spain's top selling daily paper Marca, alongside a huge photo of the joyous van Nistelrooy.

"Nobody remembers anything similar. 22:47, the hour of glory," added Marca on it's inside pages, above a clock with the hands at 13 minutes to eleven.

By contrast, the Barcelona-based Spanish newspapers had plenty of pictures of dejected and miserable Barca players on their front pages.

"They've thrown away the league," said sports daily Sport, above a picture of Barca's ineffectual French defender Lilian Thuram with his head in his hands.

Barca fans may point to the lengthy injury-induced absences of Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto'o as the principal reason the Catalan club were not able to win a third consecutive league title but sober voices will also consider Thuram's defensive errors as a crucial factor.

The 35 year-old former French international joined Barcelona last summer to cap a glorious career that includes World Cup and European Championship winner's medals.

However, Thuram's legs have run out of steam dramatically in the last 12 months and their last gesture in Spanish football could be to help him walk out of the Nou Camp this summer.

Other limbs were also the subject of much discussion in Spain on Sunday.

"God gave them a hand but even that wasn't sufficient," added an editorial in Sport, refering to Barca's controversial first goal by Messi.

Messi has often been called The New Maradona, with shades of the Argentine striker's infamous Hand of God goal in the 1986 World Cup against England, his successor and compatriot's first goal was a clear hand ball.

Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have 73 points from their 37 matches, with one game remaining next Sunday, but Real have the advantage as ties are decided in Spain on the results of head-to-head encounters during the season.

Real won 2-0 at home in their Santiago Bernabeu stadium in October and then held on for a memorable 3-3 draw in Barcelona back in March.

The final games of the season sees Real play Real Mallorca at home and Barcelona travel to the already relegated bottom club Gimnastic Tarragona.

Neither of the Spanish giants' two opponents next Sunday have anything left to play for.