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Fans riot as Cruzeiro are relegated from Brazil's Serie A

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By Reuters
Fans riot as Cruzeiro are relegated from Brazil's Serie A
Soccer Football - Brasileiro Championship - Cruzeiro v Palmeiras - Mineirao Stadium, Belo Horizonte, Brazil - December 8, 2019 Cruzeiro players watch the clashes between the riot police and fans REUTERS/Cristiane Mattos   -   Copyright  CRISTIANE MATTOS(Reuters)
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BELOHORIZONTE, Brazil (Reuters) – Cruzeiro’s final match of the season was abandoned before the end on Sunday when fans ripped up seats and threw them at players after the team were relegated from Brazil’s first division for the first time in their history.

The referee abandoned the game with some five minutes remaining shortly after Palmeiras’ second goal condemned the home side to a 2-0 defeat.

Police fired percussion grenades as angry fans threw objects and fought on the terraces and officials decided it was not safe for the players to continue.

Many people had already left the Mineirao stadium before the end as scuffles broke out among fans furious at the club’s plight.

The Belo Horizonte club had needed to win their last game of the season and hope that Ceara, the team that started the day two points above them in the table, lost away at Botafogo.

But a goal from Ze Rafael 13 minutes into the second half and a second from Dudu with six minutes remaining sealed Cruzeiro’s fate.

Ceara drew 1-1 with Botafogo and ended the season on 39 points, three above Cruzeiro.

Although Cruzeiro started the season well, winning the Mineiro state championship, their results worsened after the directors were caught up in a corruption scandal that shook the club in May.

The upheaval affected the team and directors ended up hiring and firing four different coaches over the 38 games of the league season, with the final change coming last week.

They were relegated on Sunday along with CSA, Chapecoense and Avai.

Flamengo won the league by 16 points, although they lost 4-0 on Sunday to Santos, a surprise result that was their first defeat in 30 games stretching back to early August.

The Rio side now go to Qatar to take part in the Club World Cup as winners of the Copa Libertadores, South America’s version of the Champions League.

Santos, Palmeiras, Gremio, Athletico Paranaense and Sao Paulo made up the rest of this year’s top six and all qualified for next year’s Libertadores.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; editing by Clare Fallon)