Messi fires Barcelona to La Liga title

Madrid, Spain ( - Lionel Messi fired home a second-half tally as Barcelona claimed its 23rd La Liga title on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon.

After breezing past Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals during the week, the Catlan giants went into the weekend domestic action with a four- point lead over rivals Real Madrid with two games to play.

Atletico, last season's champions, played hard in an effort not to see Barcelona claim the title on their home ground, and it was a tight affair through a scoreless first half.

Barcelona controlled nearly 70 percent of possession and they looked for an opening in the Atletico defense. The goal finally materialized with 25 minutes to play as Messi fired home his 41st goal of the season in league play.

Atletico sent numbers forward in the final minutes looking for a late equalizer to at least push back the title celebration another week, but the Catalan back line held firm to win the title.

With the league title secured, Barcelona will look forward to the Champions League final against Juventus on June 6.

Also in Spain on Sunday, Cristiano Ronaldo netted a hat trick as Real Madrid breezed past Espanyol by a 4-1 score, while Jose Raul Baena and Adrian Embarba found the back of the net to lead Rayo Vallecano to a 2-1 win over Cordoba.

Alberto Lopo and Juanfran found the back of the net to pace Deportivo to a 2-0 win over Levante, Athletic Bilbao battled back from two goals down to claim a 3-2 win over Elche, while Fredy Hinestroza and Borja Fernandez traded goals as Getafe and Eibar played to a 1-1 draw.

Granada rolled to a 3-0 thrashing of Real Sociedad, while Europa League finalists Sevilla received a pair of goals from Vicente Iborra to claim a 2-1 win against Almeria.

Valencia and Celta Vigo played to a 1-1 draw, while the day's final fixture saw Villarreal claim a 2-1 result over Malaga.