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Eto'o rallies Barcelona to 1-1 draw at Deportivo

BARCELONA capped its best ever season with a 1-1 draw at Deportivo La Coruna while Atletico Madrid beat Almeria 3-0 to clinch the Spanish league's final Champions League place yesterday.

Three days after beating Manchester United in the Champions League final to complete a historic treble, Spanish champion Barcelona - playing only a handful of regular starters - rallied from Rodolfo Bodipo's first-half header when Samuel Eto'o equalized from a clear chance in the 89th minute for his 30th league goal.

Barcelona won the league with a record 87 points in 38 games and scored 105 goals - two short of matching Real Madrid's record during the 1989-90 season.

Madrid was second with 76 points and Sevilla third with 67 - the same total as Atletico. Madrid and Sevilla play on Sunday.

Diego Forlan practically clinched the Pichichi trophy - given to the league's top scorer - with his 32nd goal for Atletico, which will play in Europe's top-tier competition in two consecutive seasons for the first time.

Sergio Aguero's highlight reel goal gave Atletico a 19th-minute lead, Raul Garcia doubled it in the 27th and Forlan sealed it with a long-range effort in the 50th.

Villarreal will play in next season's Europa League - formerly the UEFA Cup - after beating Mallorca 3-2 to finish fifth with 65 points. Valencia will also play in the competition after David Villa's double secured a 2-0 win over Athletic Bilbao that left it sixth with 62 points. Villa finished with 28 goals.

Athletic will also feature in Europe's second-tier competition since it reached the Copa del Rey final, where it lost 4-1 to Barcelona.

Barcelona played without most of its stars, as Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Thierry Henry were all rested following the 2-0 triumph at Rome's Stadio Olimpico.

"It wasn't a straightforward game for us; we'd played on Wednesday and with all the matches that we had in these past months, it wasn't easy for us to get into the game," said assistant coach Tito Vilanova, who replaced suspended coach Pep Guardiola. "But we held our head high all the way through."

Since clinching the league title, Barcelona hasn't won, having lost twice and drawn once.

Eto'o - who scored against United - was given a start since he was chasing Forlan's goal tally. Eto'o chested Bojan Krkic's lob pass inside the area before finishing off with a right-footed volley.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique limped off in the 65th with a thigh injury that Vilanova said could take two weeks to recover from. Pique joins Iniesta as a doubt for Spain's Confederations Cup campaign with similar injuries.

Krkic was the only other Barcelona player to threaten the Deportivo goal, while backup Barcelona goalkeeper Jose Manuel Pinto made several reaction saves in both halves.

But Pinto couldn't deny Bodipo, who headed Andres Guardado's looping cross home in the 31st to leave Deportivo seventh with 58 points.

Atletico's sixth straight win to close the season came in its 1,000th game at Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Aguero fired a left-footed shot across goal and into the far corner after a number of dribbles to confuse his marker. The Argentina striker finished the season with 17 goals.

Garcia streaked into the area to meet Maxi Rodriguez's free kick in the 27th before Forlan scored for the eighth straight game, volleying the ball across goal and beyond Diego Alves inside the far post.

At Mallorca, Villarreal's Ruben "Cani" Gracia slotted past Miguel Moya from the right in the 30th, before Aritz Aduriz equalized from a clear break six minutes later.

Joseba Llorente made up for Giuseppe Rossi's penalty miss in the 38th by chipping over Moya two minutes later, although the Villarreal striker appeared offside.

Llorente added a second in the 53rd which was enough for the win, despite Pierre Webo's 90th-minute goal.

At Mestalla Stadium, Villa redirected Joaquin Sanchez's centering pass past Gorka Iraizoz after seven minutes and slotted home Pablo Hernandez's pass in the 90th.

The six games on Sunday will decide the last team to join Numancia and Recreativo Huelva in the second division next season.

Osasuna, which sits in 18th with 40 points, welcomes Madrid. Sporting Gijon (40) plays Recreativo, Getafe (41) plays Racing Santander and Real Betis (41) sees Valladolid (42).

Also today, Numancia plays Sevilla and Espanyol faces Malaga.


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