Mon, May 16, 2005 - Page 20 News List

FC Barcelona secures Spanish League title

AP , MADRIDAP, BERLINAP, GLASGOW

FC Barcelona won its first Spanish league title in six years on Saturday by drawing Levante 1-1.

Striker Samuel Eto'o scored his 24th goal of the season in the 60th minute to give Barcelona its 17th league title. Alberto Rivera scored for Levante in the 35th.

Barcelona leads Real Madrid by six points with two rounds remaining. The Catalan team, which has been in first place since the start of October, needed only a point after Madrid drew 2-2 with Sevilla earlier Saturday.

"We dedicate this to Barcelona supporters. They have helped us a lot. This title brings us a lot of happiness. But I was only happy when we equalized. The team has suffered a lot," Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard was quoted as saying by news agency Efe.

Barcelona has 82 points from 36 games, while Madrid has 76. Even if Barcelona suffered two defeats and Madrid gained two victories in their remaining two games, Barcelona was champion on head-to-head results.

Barcelona players embraced at the final whistle, and Brazilian forward Ronaldinho leaped up and down on the touchline before leaving down the players' tunnel carrying a club flag.

"It's a great moment. It's been a difficult league with a very good Madrid but we totally deserved to win it. It's the first for me but not the last," Barcelona midfielder Deco told Spanish national radio.

The players will parade through the Catalan capital today afternoon before returning to the club's 98,000-capacity Camp Nou stadium, which will be open to supporters for night-time festivities, music and fireworks.

Club president Joan Laporta, who took charge in 2003, said the credit for Barcelona's success must go to Rijkaard and technical director Txiki Beguistain.

"He has done an extraordinary job, creating commitment from the very start," Laporta said of Rijkaard.

Levante, which had gained only one point from its last seven matches, gave Barcelona a fierce game at the Ciudad de Valencia stadium, and took the lead when Rivera took advantage of striker Edwin Congo's headed backpass to steer the ball past goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

Two minutes later, Ronaldinho, angered by the referee's decision not to award a penalty, pushed his head into Pablo Pinillos, who fell to the ground. The Brazilian escaped with a yellow card.

The visitors scored the crucial equalizer on the hour when league-leading scorer Eto'o, who had hit the post just before the interval, nodded home at the far post after Rafael Marquez glanced Xavi Hernandez's corner with his head.

Madrid, which had won its previous seven games, saw its title hopes end at Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium.

Sevilla began strong and teenage right back Sergio Ramos gave the team a deserved lead in the 19th minute when he fired a long, low shot past goalkeeper Iker Casillas after receiving Renato's tapped free kick.

In a rare Madrid attack, Ronaldo, who had scored eight goals in his past five matches, almost added to his tally in the 27th when a shot from the edge of the area hit Antonio Notario's left post.

Sevilla's initial effort tired the team, and Madrid leveled in the 42nd when defender Javi Navarro dived in an attempt to clear Roberto Carlos' low cross from the left and sent the ball into his own net.

Madrid wore black armbands because of the death of the wife of Alfredo Di Stefano, the club's president and former star player.

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