Cruzeiro relegation sparks violence in Belo Horoizonte as rioting fans clash with police

December 9 – The final day of the league season in Brazil was marred by violence as Belo Horizonte giants Cruzeiro were relegated for the first time in their history from Brazil’s top flight following a 0-2 defeat at home to Palmeiras.

Cruzeiro needed three points and Ceara to lose at Botafogo to maintain their top-tier status, but neither results came to pass. In the 58th minute Ze Rafael opened the score for the visitors and Dudu sealed Cruzeiro’s fate with a second goal in the 84th minute. In Rio de Janeiro, Ceara had equalised by that time thanks to a penalty conversion from Thiago Gallardo against Botafogo, further condemning Cruzeiro to the drop.

After the final whistle the referee ushered the players off the field as Cruzeiro fans expressed their dismay at their team’s woeful season by vandalising parts of the  Mineirao stadium, ripping out seats, setting off smoke bombs, and clashing with police.

It is the first time in Cruzeiro’s 98-year history that the storied club from Minas Gerais will not feature in Brazil’s top tier.. Cruzeiro finished 17th three points behind Ceara in 16th. They join CSA, Chapecoense, and Avai next year in the second division.  In 2013 and 2014 Cruzeiro won the Brazilian Serie A, they also have six Copa do Brasil titles to their name.

The club’s relegation however comes as little surprise after chronic sporting and financial mismanagement.

Flamengo won the league on 90 points, but went down on Sunday against vice-champions Santos 4-0 at the Vila Belmiro. The Rio club will represent South America at the Club World Cup after winning the Copa Libertadores.

Contact the writer of this story, Samindra Kunti, at moc.l1580312007labto1580312007ofdlr1580312007owedi1580312007sni@o1580312007fni1580312007