Barcelona and Real Madrid staged a classic Clasico that, for 90 minutes and 30 seconds on Sunday, looked set to end in an anticlimax. It was 1-1 and end-to-end on the field but, on the scoreboard, unflinching. It was sufficient for Barca, enough to secure a nine-point lead atop La Liga, but not to set off all-night parties in the Catalan capital. It was thrilling but, with five minutes of stoppage time to play, regrettably equivocal.
Then Franck Kessié snuck into the penalty box, undetected, as the unlikeliest of title-clinching heroes.
The Ivorian midfielder had never scored a La Liga goal. But in the 91st minute, with Camp Nou rising in anticipation, he met a slithering cross and produced an explosion.
He won a game that Real Madrid absolutely had to win, and instead all but clinched Barcelona’s 27th Spanish title.
When the final whistle blew, Sunday’s victors stood 12 points clear of their archrivals at the top of the league, with 12 matches to play. So their bench spilled onto the field in unbridled ecstasy. They bounced around in circles. They celebrated the ultimate climax, a triumph in global soccer’s biggest league game to essentially win a trophy.
Outside Camp Nou, similar celebrations continued as midnight approached. They probably won’t be stopping soon. Because Real Madrid had been vanquished. And because Barca will be champions.