Barcelona win Spanish League title

Agence France Presse

Madrid, May 15:

It was smiles all round on Saturday night and well into the early hours of Sunday morning as Barcelona held their nerve and clinched their 17th Spanish championships with a 1-1 draw at lowly Levante.

“To win the league has made me incredibly happy,” beamed Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard, for once allowing a broad grin to cross his usually intense and deadpan features. “I am very satisfied, especially with the efforts of my players. This is something huge.”

“This title is also for the fans who have given us incredible backing throughout the season and I want to praise the squad who have overcome all the problems that the season presented us with,” added the Dutch coach who, despite the recognition about his tactical acumen, won his first actual honour.

Barcelona hung on to win the title, having been at the top of the table since the second week of the season, despite a host of injury problems over the last nine months. Key players like Gabri Garcia, Edmilson and Henrik Larsson were out for the majority of the campaign while others like Fernando Navarro and Sylvinho also had lengthy absences.

“This is a fine reward for all our hard work during the year. It caps a great season, since I arrived at Barca last summer we’ve been chasing the title and we’ve finally caught it,” said African Player of the Year Samuel Eto’o.

It was an Eto’o header right on the hour that got Barcalona an equaliser and the vital point that secured the title. The Cameroon striker has now got 24 goals to his name with just two weeks left of the season and is well on course for becoming the Spanish first division’s top scorer.

Even the Madrid-based media put aside their usual pro-Real Madrid prejudices and loudly paid tribute to Barcalona, with pictures of Eto’o on the front pages of Marca and AS. “Salute the champions,” said Marca on their front page, below a picture of Eto’o doing exactly that to the Barcalona fans who had managed to make the trip down the Mediterranean coast to the Valencia-based club on Saturday.