Barcelona retain Spanish title

FC Barcelona won its second straight Spanish league title and 18th overall on Wednesday, claiming the crown when final challenger Valencia was beaten by Mallorca 2-1.

Barcelona players began celebrating at halftime of their game at Celta Vigo and went on to toast their success with a 1-0 win courtesy of a 55th-minute goal by Samuel Eto’o.

The Cameroon striker controlled Mark Van Bommel’s pass and evaded two defenders before scoring his 25th goal of the season.

“This league has a better taste than last year’s because it’s very hard to win titles back-to back,” Eto’o told news agency Efe.

“We value this league very highly because we have worked really hard all through the season and, yes, for more than two years.”

Dancing Barcelona players embraced and sang “champions, champions” after the final whistle blew at Celta’s Balaidos stadium.

The results left Barcelona, which has three games left, with an unassailable 11-point lead over Valencia, which has only two matches remaining.

Coach Frank Rijkaard’s team has 79 points, while Valencia has 68. Real Madrid, which like Barcelona has played 35 games, has 66.

The league title moved Barcelona closer to repeating its 1992 feat, when it won both the Spanish and European Champions Cup crown.
It meets Arsenal for the continental championship in Paris on May 17.

“We’ve managed one of our two objectives and we’re very happy.

It’s important to enjoy it. We deserve it and so do the club’s members,” Rijkaard told Canal Plus TV.

Barcelona was also the last Spanish team to win consecutive league titles—in 1998 and 1999 when the coach was another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal.

“It’s a prize for spectacle, work and consistency. We’re all very happy. It’s a reward for hard work and I want to congratulate all the players and staff,” Barcelona president Joan Laporta said.

Barcelona supporters sang and lit flares in celebrations at the city’s downtown Canaletes avenue as soon as the Valencia result was known.

Valencia, needing to win to keep the title race alive, fell behind quickly at Mallorca’s Son Moix stadium when midfielder Juan Arango scored from Victor Casadesus’ pass in the ninth minute.

Although forward Miguel Angel Angulo equalized from David Villa’s pass eight minutes later, Mallorca midfielder Cristiano Doni volleyed Mallorca’s winning goal in the 47th.

Valencia’s defeat ended a five-match winning streak and gave Real Madrid the chance to move into second place if it wins at Racing Santander on Thursday.

In another game, Inaki Munoz scored a 16th-minute goal and Osasuna edged Atletico Madrid 1-0, taking a big stride toward a European Champions League debut next season.

Osasuna, fourth with 65 points, survived the loss of defender Rafael Clavero, who received his second yellow card in the 59th minute. Atletico’s midfielder Ariel Ibagaza was ejected in the final minutes.

Also on Wednesday, it was: Sevilla 3, Getafe 0; Villarreal 2, Malaga 1; Alaves 2, Real Betis 0; Cadiz 2, Real Sociedad 2; Athletic Bilbao 1, Zaragoza 0; and Espanyol 1, Deportivo La Coruna 2.

Sevilla, which will play for the Uefa Cup next week against Middlesbrough, strengthened its chances of returning to the competition next season with a comfortable win over Getafe.

An own-goal by Getafe defender Ruben Pulido followed by Javier Saviola’s close-range strike and Luis Fabiano’s header, all in the first half, kept Sevilla sixth with 59 points.

Villarreal, playing at its El Madrigal stadium for the first time since its elimination from the Champions League semifinals by Arsenal last week, beat Malaga, whose relegation was confirmed last weekend.

Guillermo Franco and Alessio Tacchinardi both scored in the first 20 minutes to lift Villarreal into eighth place with 53 points. - Sapa-AP

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