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Brazilian club Santos relegated for first time in 111-year history; irate fans force players to run for safety

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Santos‘ relegation from Brazilian soccer’s topflight was greeted with fury and unsavory scenes on Wednesday as the South American giants suffered demotion for the first time in their 111-year history. Pele and Neymar’s former club lost 2-1 at home to Fortaleza in the final round of games in this season’s Brazil Serie A to confirm a drop into the second tier.

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Furious scenes greeted Santos’ relegation at Vila Belmiro with projectiles being launched towards the field and fans invading the turf which forced the players to head for the locker rooms. Buses, cars and even ambulances were set on fire in the aftermath as police struggled to contain irate supporters with stun grenades and pepper spray utilized. Helicopters and military police had to intervene as riot-like scenes happened in the vicinity of the stadium as many made panicked exits from the venue.

Santos had been one of three clubs along with Sao Paulo and Flamengo to have never been relegated from the highest level of domestic Brazilian soccer. However, a run of five games without a win dropped them into danger along with America Mineiro, Coritiba and Goias as City Football Group-owned Bahia secured survival by beating Atletico Mineiro.

Vasco da Gama’s win over Bragantino secured their safety and Santos had looked safe at 1-1 with Fortaleza as Vasco were also tied at that point. A Serginho goal for Vasco and a late Lucero strike for Fortaleza condemned the three-times Copa Libertadores winners to their fate.

Santos is a huge loss for the Brasileirao competition as the club was put on the map by Pele in the 1950s and 1960s with 10 state and six Brazilian championships. There were also Copa Libertadores wins in 1962 and 1963 as well as Intercontinental Cup success while Santos would later produce superstar names such as Neymar, Rodrygo and Robinho. Pele’s public funeral was held at Santos’ Vila Belmiro stadium which was the scene of the ugly reaction to an unfortunately historic relegation for the South American giants.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid-bound Endrick helped Palmeiras to a 1-1 draw with Cruzeiro which secured consecutive titles and extended their record of 12 Brazilian titles. Inter Miami-bound Luis Suarez scored twice to help Gremio to second place behind Palmeiras with a 3-2 win over Fluminense.

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