MADRID (Reuters) -Real Madrid ended the season second in La Liga despite a late 2-1 win over Villarreal at home on Saturday.
Real's victory was not enough to win the league as Atletico Madrid beat Valladolid 2-1 to claim their first title since 2014. Real finished the campaign on 84 points, two behind the champions.
"The champions are the team who win the most games, and there's no excuses from us," midfielder Casemiro said.
"We always want to win, but it wasn't to be and we have to congratulate Atletico and their coach.
"We were one game from getting to the Champions League final and took La Liga to the final day. We're proud, it was a tough season where we really had to fight and work hard."
Zinedine Zidane's side were uncharacteristically nervy from the off and were made to pay after 20 minutes as Pino latched onto Gerard Moreno's through ball before calmly finishing.
Shortly after going behind the hosts saw penalty claims waved away by referee Jose Luis Munuera Montero after the ball had struck Dani Parejo's hand, before Luka Modric and Casemiro both missed good chances as the first half drew to a close.
Ten minutes after the restart Karim Benzema thought he had equalised, but his header was ruled out for offside following a lengthy VAR review.
The Frenchman then missed a glorious chance to level the scores after Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli's clearance was charged down by substitute Rodrygo, only to fire wide of an open goal.
Benzema finally scored three minutes from time with a wonderful finish into the top corner from the edge of the box before teeing up Luka Modric for an injury time winner to turn the game on its head.
Villarreal end the season seventh, giving them a place in next year's inaugural Europa Conference League.
(Reporting by Joseph Walker; Editing by Hugh Lawson)