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Barcelona clinch Spanish league title

By Phil Seery
Agence France-Presse



MADRID?Barcelona were crowned Spanish champions for the third successive season with a 1-1 draw at Levante on Wednesday clinching a 21st domestic title with two games to spare.

Barcelona needed just a point to retain the title and they duly obliged to become the first side to win three consecutive league titles since 1993 when Johan Cruyff's Barcelona 'Dream Team' won the third of their four straight league crowns.

Mali midfielder Seydo Keita headed in a 27th minute opener for Barcelona only for Ecuadorian striker Felipe Caicedo to equalize on 40 minutes, but it didn't matter as a draw gave the Catalan side the title.

"It's always a nice feeling to win the title and the fans really deserve this," said midfielder Xavi.

"I imagine we're going to celebrate this title win with them tonight in the streets of Barcelona."

Barcelona stand six points ahead of second-placed Real Madrid and they lift the title courtesy of their superior head to head record over their rivals.

Coach Pep Guardiola has won the league title in each of his three seasons in charge and can now concentrate on going for the double with the Champions League final against Manchester United at Wembley Stadium on May 28.

"Winning the title is always difficult and this one was tough just like the others were before," said Guardiola. "Now we can enjoy this win."

Real Madrid's 4-0 win over Getafe at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday meant Barcelona had to finish the title job themselves.

Guardiola vowed not to rest his stars and was true to his word as the likes of Lionel Messi, David Villa and Xavi started although Andres Iniesta began on the bench.

French international Eric Abidal also started at left back in his first league start since mid-March having successfully undergone surgery on a liver tumour.

Levante sounded an early warning with Valdo firing just wide but the visitors drew first blood through Keita on 27 minutes.

Xavi picked out midfielder Keita as he made a late run into the box and the Mali midfielder produced a terrific header.

Barcelona had one hand on the trophy but got complacent with Spanish international Gerard Pique making a schoolboy defensive mistake to confuse goalkeeper Victor Valdes and Caicedo was on hand to equalise.

Argentine Messi went close with a free-kick before the interval but at the break the title was in their hands despite a below-par display.

The champions came out with more urgency in the second half and Dutch winger Ibrahim Afellay saw a fierce shot whistle wide.

Messi then took centre stage on 57 minutes with a neat turn and dribble past three men with his quick feet but his shot crashed against the left hand post to safety.

The Ballon D'Or holder then went on another mazy run but his shot crept wide as Barcelona waited for a goal to ease their nerves.

Both teams appeared happy with the draw, with Levante moving four points above the relegation zone, as the game petered out and Barcelona popped the champagne corks.

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