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Spain celebrates second European trophy in eight days

Written by: Staff
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MADRID, May 18: Spain was celebrating a rare European trophy double today after Barcelona recovered to overcome 10-man Arsenal 2-1 in the Champions League final.

''Spain 2 Europe 0; After Sevilla's UEFA Cup, Barca win the Champions League,'' said the front page of sports daily AS the morning after Barca's triumph in Paris.

With Sevilla having thrashed Middlesbrough 4-0 in Eindhoven last week it is the fourth time Spanish clubs have won both titles in the same season.

Barca's second European Cup success also means that when added to Real Madrid's record nine wins, Spain have won Europe's top club competition more times than any other country.

King Juan Carlos I and Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero were in attendance in Paris to offer their support to the Primera Liga champions.

Zapatero was quoted in sports daily Marca saying: ''Although it proved harder than expected, Spanish sport continues to do well and I hope this form continues into the World Cup.'' Following on from Sevilla's win last week Spain has enjoyed a series of high-profile triumphs in recent days.

On Sunday, Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso became the first Spaniard to win his home grand prix, tennis player Rafael Nadal overpowered Roger Federer to win the Rome Masters and MotoGP rookie Dani Pedrosa claimed his maiden triumph in motorcycling's top category in China.

Although photos of the presentation of the Champions League trophy and Barcelona's victory celebrations dominated the papers and the television news, there were some dissenting voices.

Arsenal's valiant rearguard action after losing German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann to a red card early on was widely recognised, as was the fact that Barca did not play as well as they have done in the league.

Many commentators questioned the wisdom of coach Frank Rijkaard's tactics after he started with Mark van Bommel instead of Andres Iniesta, and positioned Ronaldinho in a central role with striker Samuel Eto'o out on the wing.

Many felt Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger had outthought the Dutchman.

El Pais said: ''I am sure Rijkaard could explain his decisions but neither the team nor the fans understood them.

''Arsenal took Lehmann's sending off in their stride, while Barca suffered a panic attack. The important thing is they won but they could so easily have lost, consumed by anxiety and undone by Arsenal counter-attacks.'' Sports daily AS took a different tack: ''Rijkaard was wrong but knew how to put it right (with his substitutions).'' Swedish striker Henrik Larsson was sent on on just after the hour mark and set up Eto'o and fellow substitute Juliano Belletti to score Barca's late goals.

The match was billed as a clash between Thierry Henry and Ronaldinho but the Spanish press were quick to praise defender Belletti who grabbed the winner nine minutes from time.

Sports daily Mundo Deportivo said: ''Barcelona were proclaimed champions after an epic comeback completed by an unexpected hero: Belletti.'' It was the Brazilian's first goal for Barcelona.

REUTERS

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