Thu, Dec 23, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Barcelona boosts lead

EUROPEAN FOOTBALL Barcelona heads the standings in the Spanish league with 42 points, Espanyol has 30, while Real Madrid and Valencia each have 29 points

AP , MADRID, SPAINAP ZURICH, SWITZERLANDAND FRANKFURT, GERMANY

FC Barcelona player Samuel Eto'o, left, attempts to fire past Jose Antono Culebras of Levante during their match in Barcelona on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

Cameroon's Samuel Eto'o fired an 87th-minute winner to earn FC Barcelona a 2-1 win over Levante and stretch his team's lead in the Spanish league to 12 points on Tuesday in its last match of 2004.

The 13th goal of the season by Eto'o, the league's leading scorer, came after Barcelona had struggled in the 17th-round game at the Camp Nou against Levante, which hasn't won in its last seven matches.

Defender Alexis Suarez gave Barcelona the lead with a 29th-minute own goal, and Levante midfielder Mateu Jofre leveled on the hour.

Barcelona's win ensured it will finish as ``winter champion,'' the unofficial title given the league leader at the season's halfway mark of 19 games.

Before kickoff, Barcelona's Ronaldinho displayed the FIFA World Player of the Year trophy he won the previous day, and made a speech in which he expressed his desire to share the award with his teammates and the team's supporters.

"This match wasn't our best night but I look to the future with optimism. I think if we show this mentality we can withstand the pressure," said Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, whose team hasn't lost at home in the league throughout 2004.

Also on Tuesday, Spain winger Joaquin Sanchez scored in what was reportedly his last game before his transfer to Chelsea, to give Real Betis a 1-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

World soccer's governing body Tuesday fined Spain's national federation SF100,000 (US$87,000, 65,000 euros) for racist taunting by its fans during matches against England.

FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren said the Spanish federation also was warned against a repeat of such fan behavior at future games. Spanish soccer has been hit by a string of racist incidents.

According to Spain's Efe news agency, a Spanish soccer official said the federation would honor the fine and had no plans to appeal the sanction.

GERMAN BEER

Legions of proud German soccer fans were happy to find out on Tuesday they won't be forced to drink American beer in their own stadiums at the 2006 World Cup.

Germans reacted with dismay when the news broke several months ago that only beers from Anheuser-Busch, whose "Budweiser" is the most famous of its brands, could be poured in stadiums during the World Cup in Germany.

But the giant US brewery, a World Cup global sponsor, agreed to also let German brewery Bitburger pour its beer in the arenas.

Bitburger said it didn't strike the deal just because of deep German pride in its national drink, or even the anger of German fans.

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