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Valencia, Juventus, Ajax Amsterdam Claim League Soccer Titles - 2002-05-06


The Spanish football (soccer) club Valencia has claimed the Spanish league title for the first time in 31 years.

A 35th-minute header Sunday by Argentine international Roberto Ayala and a 44th-minute strike by Brazilian leftback Fabio Aurelio gave Valencia the fifth title in its history with a 2-0 victory over Malaga. With one round of matches remaining, the team coached by Rafa Benitez has 72 points, six more than Real Madrid, which could only draw, 0-0, with Mallorca. Valencia's previous league triumph was in 1971, when the team was coached by the former Madrid legend Alfredo di Stefano. Its other Spanish league titles came in 1942, 1944 and 1947. Valencia also lost the last two Champions League finals to Real Madrid (3-0) in 2000 and the following year to Bayern Munich on penalties.

Juventus fans are celebrating their team's 26th Italian football league title with joyous rallies in the northern Italian city of Turin and throughout the country.

Juventus captured the title Sunday, jumping ahead of Internazionale on the Serie A season's final day with a 2-0 win at Udinese. From Turin's central Piazza San Carlo to locales as far away as Palermo and Catania in Sicily, thousands of fans of Italy's most successful and popular club filled streets to display their team's white and black colors. Even in Milan and Rome, home to the club's archrivals, Juventus fans honked their car horns in celebration. But in Milan some cars of celebrating Juventus fans were damaged by stones hurled by angry Inter supporters.

Ajax Amsterdam has clinched its 28th national soccer title with a 2-0 win over NEC Nijmegen Sunday.

Ajax, a team without major stars, finished with 73 points, five points better than second-place PSV Eindhoven, which settled for a 2-2 draw at De Graafschap Doetinchem. Ajax can take the double of league and cup if it wins the Amstel Cup final against FC Utrecht next Sunday. Ajax last performed the feat in 1998 under Danish coach Morten Olsen, which was the last occasion the club won a prize of any kind.

A short time after the victory, riot police fired tear gas and charged about one-thousand fans in downtown Amsterdam after celebrations turned violent. At least 28 fans were arrested. The fans were apparently angered that Ajax would not receive the title plaque at the traditional venue in central Amsterdam, but on the outskirts at the Arena soccer stadium.

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