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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 18, 2008

Inter Milan wins third straight Italian title

ROME -- Inter Milan won its third straight Italian league title Sunday by beating Parma 2-0 on the final day of the season.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, returning from a six-week injury layoff, scored both goals to help Inter finish the season with 85 points, three more than AS Roma, which tied 1-1 at Catania.

"All of Italy was rooting against us, which gives us even more pride," Inter president Massimo Moratti said.

Ibrahimovic was out injured when Inter wasted chances to clinch the past two weekends, first with a loss against city rival AC Milan and then last week with a tie against Siena.

"After we lost the derby a lot of [negative] things were written about us," Inter captain Javier Zanetti said. "Everyone was rooting for Siena and everyone wanted Roma to win, but unfortunately the party is still going to be in Milan. This was a group response."

The Sweden striker came on in the 51st minute in driving rain at Parma and scored one goal with each foot. In the 62nd, he used his right foot to connect on a low shot from beyond the penalty area. He then volleyed in a cross from Maicon with his left foot in the 79th.

Inter fans were barred from attending the game in Parma, but thousands of supporters celebrated outside the stadium, and fans back in Milan chanted in front of the city's Duomo cathedral.

Roma needed to win and hope for help from Parma. It looked good for the Giallorossi when Mirko Vucinic scored in the eighth minute, but Roma let up after news of Ibrahimovic's goals reached Catania and Jorge Andres Martinez tied the score for the Sicilians in the 85th.

"We weren't supposed to win it today. The difference came during those two months of the season when Inter struggled but won nine of 10 games," Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi said. "Nobody ever doubted Inter was a great team."

Fiorentina beat Torino 1-0 to secure fourth place and Italy's final Champions League berth. AC Milan finished fifth despite a 4-1 win over Udinese, and will miss out on the top European competition next season.

Argentine forward Pablo Osvaldo scored with a bicycle kick in the 76th minute for Fiorentina at Torino, which had a goal by Aimo Diana disallowed for offside in the 60th.

Udinese led Milan when Giandomenico Mesto scored in the 32nd minute, but the Rossoneri responded with goals from Alexandre Pato, Filippo Inzaghi, Cafu and Clarence Seedorf.

"We're not ending the year how we'd like to, but let's not forget that we won the Club World Cup this season," Milan vice president Adriano Galliani said, also recalling that his team won its seventh European Cup last season. "After two seasons when our focus has been elsewhere, next year we're going to focus fulltime on the league."

Juventus finished third with 72 points and was followed by Fiorentina with 66 and Milan with 64.

Alessandro Del Piero finished as the league scoring leader, getting two goals in Juventus' 3-3 tie with Sampdoria on Saturday. Del Piero finished with 21 goals, teammate David Trezeguet had 20 and Genoa's Marco Borriello ended with 19.

Empoli, Parma and Livorno were relegated.

Spain

MADRID, Spain -- Racing Santander will play in European competition for the first time next season after finishing in sixth place in the Spanish league with a 1-0 win over Osasuna.

Ivan Bolado scored in the 85th minute to help Racing join Sevilla and Copa del Rey champion Valencia in Europe's second-tier club competition next season.

Spanish league champion Real Madrid capped a record-setting season with a 5-2 win over Levante.

Ruud van Nistelrooy and Sergio Ramos scored two goals each and Wesley Sneijder added the other as Madrid beat last-place Levante, which had threatened to skip the match in a strike over unpaid player wages.

Madrid captain Raul Gonzalez, left out of Spain's European Championship squad Saturday, accepted the Spanish champions' record 31st league trophy at the close of the game at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Madrid won the league with 85 points -- the highest winning point total in 11 years. Villarreal finished second with a club-high 77 points after beating Deportivo La Coruna 2-0 with goals from Mattias Fernandez and Guillermo Franco.

Zaragoza was relegated to the second division following a 3-2 loss at Mallorca. Chori Castro's injury-time goal made the difference as Mallorca finished seventh and Zaragoza returned to the second division for the first time since 2002.

David Villa scored two goals to help Valencia end a turbulent season with a 3-1 win over Champions League-bound Atletico Madrid.

The Spanish striker scored from a solo run in the 54th minute and beat goalkeeper Christian Abbiati in the 40th. Villa's centering pass in the 11th was redirected into goal by Atletico defender Giourkas Seitaridis. Argentina striker Sergio Aguero scored in the 76th to cap his second season at Atletico with 19 goals.

Numancia clinched its place in the first division. The team returns to the top league for the fourth time since 1999 and first time in three seasons.

Dutch

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- FC Twente will play in the Champions League next season after holding Ajax to a 0-0 tie in the Dutch league playoffs.

Twente advanced 2-1 on aggregate to leave Ajax with a spot in the UEFA Cup.

PSV Eindhoven, the Dutch league champion, has already secured one of the Netherlands' two Champions League berths.

Germany

SINSHEIM, Germany -- Financial backing from software billionaire Dietmar Hopp helped small-town club 1899 Hoffenheim get promoted to the Bundesliga.

Hoffenheim, an amateur team in the early 1990s, finished second in the second division and was promoted to Germany's top league with a 5-0 win over SpVgg Greuther Fuerth.

Hopp is co-founder of the software company SAP.

Portugal

LISBON, Portugal -- Sporting won its second straight Portuguese Cup by beating FC Porto 2-0 in extra time. Substitute Rodrigo Tiui scored in the 110th and 117th minutes.

It was the fourth straight cup final between the two teams to go to extra time.

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