Atletico Mineiro win Brazilian league for first time in 50 years

Atletico Mineiro fans
Atletico Mineiro fans celebrate with flares. Photo: Reuters/Cris Mattos

Atletico Mineiro beat Bahia 3-2 on Thursday to win their first Brazilian league title in 50 years and send large sections of Belo Horizonte into wild celebrations.

Away from home, Atletico were 2-0 down after 66 minutes but scored three times in the last 17 minutes, the last two from winger Keno, to give them an unassailable 11-point advantage at the top of the Serie A with their closest rivals having three matches to play.

Crowds gathered at the club headquarters in Belo Horizonte as well as in the city centre to watch the game on big screens and celebrate the triumph with fireworks going off across the region.

Atletico's sponsor, construction company MRV, said it would next week pay for Atletico fans to get a club tattoo, Radio Itatiaia reported.

The last time Atletico won the Brazilian title was in 1971, the year Brazil inaugurated its first national league after decades of prioritising state championships.

"It's been 50 years since we won the title, that's a long time," said Keno. "Now we have to celebrate."

Atletico Mineiro's Hulk celebrates after the match. Photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Keno was the key man on the night but it was Hulk, the scorer of Atletico’s first goal, who was at the heart of their title run.

The former Brazil striker signed for the club in February and the 35-year-old has enjoyed an unforgettable season, scoring 18 goals to top the Serie A scoring charts.

Coach Cuca described it as "a magical year" for a player he said "fit like a glove" at Atletico.

Hulk has been assisted in attack by Argentines Matias Zaracho and Nacho Fernandez and Chilean Eduardo Vargas.

Diego Costa, the combative former Chelsea and Atletico Madrid centre forward, bolstered the strike force further when he joined the club in August.

Atletico have the second-best attack and the best defence in the league. In a calendar year of 82 matches, Atletico have lost only 10 games.

On the sidelines, coach Cuca further cemented his name in the Atletico pantheon, eight years after leading the club to their first and only Copa Libertadores, South America’s version of the Champions League.

The club have two more league matches to play and then will aim to do the double with the Copa do Brasil, which is played over two legs against Athletico Paranaense on December 12 and 16.

"It's been a magic year and we've still got a title to play for against Athletico Parananese," said Cuca.

"I can only imagine what the fans were going through when we were 2-0 down, they were probably shouting and swearing at us. But now, what a result, what happiness."

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