Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres given emotional La Liga send offs on season’s final day
Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta lifted a ninth Liga title after his side beat Real Sociedad 1-0 on Sunday in an emotional final game for the midfielder at the Nou Camp while Fernando Torres scored twice in his final game for Atletico Madrid.
Philippe Coutinho rattled in the only goal in the champions’ final game of the season in the 57th minute as they finished the campaign with 93 points, while Torres struck both of Atletico’s goals in their 2-2 draw at home to Eibar.
Coutinho drifted inside from the left and held off two defenders outside the area before rattling the ball in off the far post with a venomous shot.
The league’s top scorer Lionel Messi started the game on the bench but replaced Coutinho in the 67th minute. Iniesta was substituted in the 82nd, hugging most of his team mates as well as some Real Sociedad players and the referee as he left the Nou Camp pitch for the last time as a Barca player.
Barca’s fans held up a mosaic before the game reading “Infinite Iniesta”.
They later revealed a banner saying “Thanks for so much” in tribute to a player who came through their academy 22 years ago and spent 16 seasons pulling the strings in midfield, winning nine Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and six domestic Cups.
They continued to sing Iniesta’s name long after he had gone off the pitch. The captain returned with his team mates after the final whistle to lift the club’s 25th Liga title and also show off the King’s Cup trophy which they won in April, beating Sevilla 5-0 in the final.
“Today is a difficult day. I have spent 22 marvellous years here and I’ve been so proud to defend and represent this badge, which for me is the best in the world,” Iniesta said, addressing Barca fans from the Nou Camp pitch.
“Thanks to all our fans, for the support you’ve shown and the respect you have given me. I came here as a boy and I leave aged 34 as a man. I’ll always carry you in my heart.”
Barca end the season on 93 points, 14 more than second-placed Atletico and 17 above last year’s champions Real Madrid. Ernesto Valverde’s side lost only one Liga match, last week’s 5-4 defeat at Levante.
GUARD OF HONOUR
Atletico were given a guard of honour by Eibar’s players before kick off after beating Olympique de Marseille 3-0 in Wednesday’s Europa League final, which was Torres’s first trophy with the club where he has spent the majority of his career.
Torres, who wore the captain’s armband in his final game, tapped into an empty net in the 42nd minute to cancel out Kike Garcia’s opener.
The Spaniard then gave Atletico the lead on the hour mark, latching on to a through ball from Diego Costa and rounding the goalkeeper to score his 129th goal for the club. He was then booked for jumping over the advertising boards to celebrate with supporters.
Eibar’s Ruben Pena levelled for the visiting side with a scorching strike from outside the area in the 70th minute, after Atletico defender Lucas Hernandez had been sent off for two bookings.
“I have had the privilege to wear this shirt in over 400 games and it’s very tough to know that this is the final time,” said an emotional Torres, who made his debut for Atletico aged 17 in the 2000/01 season, leaving for Liverpool in 2007 but returning in 2015 after also playing for Chelsea and AC Milan.
“We have all been asked many times why we support Atletico or why Atletico is different. When we say that they cannot understand it, that it can’t be explained, I’d like you to remember how we feel today, proud and happy to be champions.”