Atlético Madrid clinch La Liga title after Luis Suárez seals win at Real Valladolid

Atlético Madrid’s captain, Koke, says they are destined to suffer but they are champions. The 3,000 fans gathered in the car park outside the José Zorrilla stadium exploded as Diego Simeone’s side offered another exhibition in survival. They came from behind to win 2-1 for the second time in a week and take the title at the end of a season of twists to the last. Top since week 12, Atlético hung on to a lead they had first taken in November.

Their opponents, Valladolid, could not. They had fought here, but relegation proved unavoidable. In the last minute Sergio Guardiola flashed a shot over, fear still gripping everyone, but Atlético were ultimately carried over the line by second half goals from Ángel Correa and, appropriately, Luis Suárez.

Pushed out by Barcelona, driven by vindication, Suárez has directly contributed 21 points, giving Atlético their second title in seven years. “We’re entering into the Suárez Zone,” Simeone said last week; now, they were there again, the Uruguayan steering in the winner 23 minutes from the end, disappearing under a pile of bodies for the second time in six days and ending the evening in tears.

The task before Atlético on the final day had been simple – win – but this has been a season where nothing is straightforward. Valladolid were fighting against relegation; Atlético were fighting their own fears, the pressure they have lived with for months now. They had suffered but not yet succumbed and yet nor had they overcome yet, Simeone admitting recently: “Anxiety exists.”

The best way to avoid that was to score quickly and after just 37 seconds Suárez was through, only to be caught by Jawad el Yamiq. And not only did that early momentum slow, soon the unthinkable happened – except that this has been a title race when the unthinkable kept happening, every moment seeming decisive. From an Atlético corner, Yannick Carrasco lost the ball and suddenly Simeone’s side were exposed. Óscar Plano ran clean through and beat Jan Oblak at the near post, thudding at his chest in celebration.

This, in the 18th minute, was when news came in that 195km away Villarreal had scored against Madrid, the season summed up in a second. Atlético were still top, still champions in waiting, but they knew that they couldn’t expect this to stay that way. The problem was that the more they searched the more nervous and vulnerable they looked, Felipe having to slide in on Janko to prevent a second.

Suárez bent a shot that Jordi Masip pushed wide, but fear hung heavily and at half-time everything they had worked towards was slipping from them. Never mind the last 90 minutes of the season, this was going to the last 45.

It took just 30 seconds of the restart for Marcos Llorente to accelerate into the area and pull back for Suárez’s diving header, which was blocked on the line. Llorente then had a shot blocked and, for the second time, José María Giménez headed over a corner from close range.

There was an urgency about Atlético now. And then, on 57 minutes, came one of those moments that have defined this title race. At Valdebebas, Karim Benzema scored, or thought he had. While the VAR was checking that, Correa turned on the edge of the area and toepoked a superb shot into the bottom corner. As Atlético celebrated their goal, Real’s was disallowed. Soon, they were celebrating another, but not before Shon Weissman headed over from six yards.

An awful mistake from Guardiola set Suárez through, alone. Time seemed to stand still as he ran, slowing to bend a superb left-foot shot low into the net. It was Suárez’s 21 goal of the season, and although there was time to suffer still, nerves to the last moment of an extraordinary season, it took Atlético to the title.