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Friday, May 4, 2012

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Miracle man: Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba, who had a heart attack on March 17, waves to the crowd before Wednesday's Premier League match against Tottenham at Reebok Stadium. AFP-JIJI

Mourinho breaks Barca's grip as Real Madrid wins title


MADRID — Jose Mourinho promised improved results in his second season at Real Madrid, and the Portuguese coach delivered with a record 32nd Spanish League trophy to put a close to Barcelona's domestic dominance.

But while Madrid set a record goal total and Mourinho became the first manager to win a seventh league title across four different European leagues, his failure to give Madrid a chance at playing for a 10th European Cup by way of a Champions League final appearance will leave a bittersweet taste hanging over this season's accomplishment.

Madrid secured the Spanish title with a 3-0 victory at Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, with Gonzalo Higuain again scoring the goal that clinched the title — just as the Argentina forward did four years ago.

Cristiano Ronaldo led a potent attack that surpassed the record mark of 109 goals set by Madrid 22 years ago, with 115 goals and counting, and two games still to play.

Ronaldo's 58 goals include 44 in the league, with the Portugal forward still dueling with Barcelona rival Lionel Messi — who leads with 46 — for the new mark.

"No one gifted us anything," Mourinho, always blunt, said Wednesday.

Madrid may not have met expectations in Europe, despite reaching a second straight semifinal, but at least it finally figured out a way to beat Barcelona.

Barcelona had dominated Spain's fiercest rivalry since coach Pep Guardiola's arrival in 2008, winning nine of 14 with only a single loss until Madrid's victory in last month's "clasico" allowed it to take control of the title race and tilt the balance of power in Spain.

The 2-1 victory at Nou Camp not only stretched Madrid's lead to seven points, but compounded a miserable week for Barcelona when Chelsea eliminated it from the Champions League semifinal and Guardiola announced his decision to leave the club at the close of the season.

Muamba returns


BOLTON, England — Fabrice Muamba made an emotional return to Bolton on Wednesday, waving tearfully to fans from the field less than seven weeks after his on-field cardiac arrest.

The midfielder was introduced to a standing ovation ahead of Bolton's Premier League match against Tottenham, the team he was playing against in the F.A. Cup when he collapsed on March 17.

Looking healthy and mobile, Muamba wiped tears from his eyes as he acknowledged the crowd at Reebok Stadium.

"I wish I was playing today," Muamba said.

After greeting the crowd, Muamba made his way to the stands to support his team.

Muamba's heart stopped for 78 minutes on March 17 but the intervention of a cardiologist, who left his seat among Tottenham fans to treat him, helped saved his life.

He was discharged from a London hospital on April 16.

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