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Real escape with hope of progress

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By ESPN Staff

Delgado, Palacios have year long bans lifted

QUITO, May 2 (Reuters) - Ecuador striker Agustin Delgado and Peru midfielder Roberto Palacios, banned for one year for their part in a vicious brawl on the pitch in December, were given reprieves on Wednesday.

The pair, who were playing for Quito-based club LDU at the time, were among 11 players suspended for fighting at the end of a league game against Barcelona.

The incident at LDU's Casa Blanca stadium in Quito left four Barcelona players needing hospital treatment and shocked the Andean nation.

'These five months have been very tough,' a tearful Delgado told reporters after the ban was overturned following a special meeting of the Ecuadorean Football Federation (FEF).

'The mistake, which I'm sorry to have made, has left me with painful and unforgettable lessons.'

An FEF spokesman said the pair, whose ban had been extended internationally by FIFA, would be free to play from the start of June.

However, an appeal against a one-year ban on LDU's Paraguayan defender Carlos Espinola was rejected.

Delgado, hugely popular with the public, had appealed his ban with Congress and human rights groups, arguing the punishment was too harsh.

Meanwhile, the Peruvian federation had manoeuvred behind the scenes on behalf of Palacios, who has been a stalwart in his national team's midfield for more than one decade.

Since the ban, LDU have suffered a dramatic slump in form. They are struggling in the Ecuadorean championshp and were knocked out of this year's South American Libertadores Cup in the group stage.