One of the most exciting seasons of the Brazilian league ended Wednesday with the most stable team of the season defending its title and the club that was home to the late Pelé relegated for the first time.
Palmeiras drew 1-1 at Cruzeiro to be crowned Brazilian champion for the 12th time. The 18-year-old Endrick scored his 11th goal of the season to give Palmeiras an early lead and Nikao equalized in the 80th minute at the Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte.
– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)
Santos’ relegation following a 2-1 home loss to Fortaleza was another setback for the club at the stadium where Pelé’s funeral took place in January.
The costal city team were one of three clubs, along with Sao Paulo and Flamengo, never to have been relegated from Brazil’s top flight but a woeful run of five games without a victory saw them drop to 17th in the standings with 43 points.
This year’s title went to Palmeiras with striker Endrick, set to join Real Madrid, scoring several key goals and rival Botafogo squandering a 13-point lead in the standings.
Atlético Mineiro and Flamengo, who had slim chances of winning the trophy in the lastl round, lost their matches. Those defeats allowed Luis Suárez’ Gremio to finish runner-up after a 3-2 win at Fluminense, with the Uruguayan striker scoring two goals.
Suarez is expected to link up with former Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi at MLS side Inter Miami CF next year.
Palmeiras finished with 70 points, two more than Gremio. Botafogo, who led for 31 of 38 rounds, finished in fifth with 64 points. The Rio club lost 3-1 at Internacional, and ended the season with an 11-game winless streak.
Santos finished one point behind City Football Group-owned Bahia, who beat Atletico Mineiro 4-1, and two less than Vasco da Gama, the winners of another tense clash against Bragantino.
Mario Sergio opened the scoring for the visitors in the 39th minute. Messias equalized in the 58th minute to give Santos hope it could put Vasco da Gama or Bahia in a relegation position. But Fortaleza’s Juan Martin Lucero scored from long distance shortly before the final whistle.
The match was ended as soon as Santos fans tried to invade the pitch, forcing players to run to the locker rooms.
Late Brazilian great Pele helped Santos become one of the most famous clubs in world football, the side enjoying a golden era in the 1950s and 1960s that saw them win 10 state and six Brazilian league titles.
They also lifted the Copa Libertadores in 1962 and 1963, the same years won they won the Intercontinental Cup, the trophy played for by the top teams from Europe and South America.
In addition to Pele, Santos has produced a host of outstanding players such as former AC Milan striker Robinho, Brazil’s top scorer Neymar and Real Madrid forward Rodrygo.