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Champion Barcelona loses 2-1 at Mallorca

JUAN Arango and Cleber Santana scored second-half goals yesterday as Mallorca came from a goal down to beat champion Barcelona 2-1 its first game since winning the Spanish league title.

Barcelona, which won the title for the 19th time on Saturday after its closest rival Real Madrid lost 3-2 at Villarreal, was applauded onto the Ono Estadi field by Mallorca players in recognition of its success.

Samuel Eto'o gave a depleted Barca side a 10th-minute lead with a looping header from Bojan Krkic's cross, the league-leading scorer's 29th goal of the season.

Arango equalised with a fierce free kick in the 73rd minute and Santana headed home from Jose Manuel Jurado's cross five minutes later to inflict Barcelona's fourth defeat in 36 games this season - and its first since March 1.

Eto'o wasted the chance to earn Barcelona a draw when he missed an injury-time penalty. The Cameroon striker also hit the post with a header in the last minute.

With a Champions League final looming against Manchester United on May 27, Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola rested Lionel Messi and Xavi Hernandez among others and handed league debuts to the club's third-choice goalkeeper Oier Olazabal and midfielder Xavi Torres. Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta missed the game through injury.

"We had people who don't usually play. Today they did so and I have no complaints about anyone," Guardiola said.

Barcelona, which also won the Copa del Rey last Wednesday, now requires four goals from its final two games against Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna to beat Madrid's record of 107 league goals in a Spanish season set in 1989-90.

La Sexta TV reported that Martin Ferguson, brother of United manager Alex Ferguson, attended the game with a view to checking on Barcelona's form and tactics.

Diego Forlan scored the only goal of yesterday's late game as Atletico Madrid beat Valencia 1-0 and leapfrogged its opponent into fourth place.

Forlan's 28th goal of the season arrived on the half-hour from the penalty spot after Valencia goalkeeper Cesar Sanchez was adjudged to have felled Sergio Aguero.

Barcelona has 86 points - another Spanish record - and is eight clear of Madrid. Sevilla is next with 64. Atletico follows with 61, two more than Valencia and Villarreal.

In other matches, Real Betis, Espanyol and Racing Santander all gained victories which boosted their chances of remaining in the league next season.

Betis beat 10-man Almeria 2-0, Espanyol edged Athletic Bilbao 1-0, while Santander beat Valladolid 3-2. Numancia defeated Recreativo Huelva 1-0 in a game between two relegation candidates while Sporting Gijon finished up 2-1 winners over Malaga.

With two games remaining, nine teams could still be relegated. Santander and Valladolid have 42 points, Espanyol 41, Betis 40, Getafe 38, Gijon and Osasuna 37, Numancia 35, and Recreativo is last with 33. The bottom three at the end of the season are relegated.

Betis' Mark Gonzalez headed his team into a sixth-minute lead and Almeria's hopes of a comeback dimmed when its defender Juan Manuel "Chico" Flores gave away a penalty and was sent off 14 minutes later.

Although Betis forward Edu Schmidt missed the resulting spotkick, Arzu Garcia made amends in the 66th when he drilled home a shot from the edge of the area.

Bilbao, which lost to Barcelona 4-1 in last Wednesday's Copa del Rey final, kept Espanyol at bay until midfielder Carlos Gurpegi conceded a penalty with his challenge on Ferran "Coro" Corominas and Luis Garcia converted from the spot in the 70th minute.

Oscar Serrano gave Santander a fourth-minute lead, only for Victor Fernandez and Henok Goitom to turn the tables for Valladolid in the next 16 minutes.

Valladolid then had defender Inaki Bea sent off in the 49th minute and Jonathan Pereira leveled for Santander on the hour mark.

Nikola Zigic netted Santander's winner in the 86th.

The game between the bottom two teams, Numancia and Recreativo, was decided by Jose Javier Barkero's 89th-minute penalty which left the visitors closer to relegation.

Gijon boosted its hopes of avoiding the drop and ended a winless run of eight games.

Gerard Autet's 24th-minute header gave Gijon the lead, Weligton equalized for Malaga in the 38th and visiting defender Helder Rosario headed into his own net in the 53rd.

Also on Saturday, Sevilla was held 0-0 at Osasuna and Deportivo La Coruna drew 1-1 with Getafe.


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