The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION
Cruzeiro loses 2nd in a row but remains comfortably ahead in Brazilian league
SAO PAULO - Cruzeiro retained a comfortable lead in the in the Brazilian league with 10 rounds to go despite losing its second straight match 1-0 to rival Atletico Mineiro on Sunday.
Cruzeiro has been stuck on 59 points for the last two rounds, but still has a 10-point lead over Clarence Seedorf's Botafogo and Hernan Barcos' Gremio. Botafogo came from behind to defeat Rio de Janeiro rival Flamengo 2-1, while Gremio couldn't manage more than a 1-1 draw at defending champion Fluminense on Saturday.
Seeking its first title since 2003, Cruzeiro was unbeaten in 12 matches before losing 2-0 to Sao Paulo at home on Wednesday. The two-time champion won 11 of its 12 matches during the unbeaten streak.
At the Morumbi Stadium, goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni missed an 89th-minute penalty kick as Sao Paulo drew club world champion Corinthians 0-0 to remain in danger of relegation.
The match was marked by a confrontation between Sao Paulo fans on the stands. Police had to intervene and officers hit several fans with batons. Fan violence also marked the Cruzeiro match in Belo Horizonte, with police having to take action to control the situation. No serious injuries were reported in either incident.
Four-time champion Vasco da Gama lost 3-2 at Criciuma, moving even deeper into relegation zone. In Caxias do Sul, Argentine midfielder Andres D'Alessandro scored a goal to help Internacional beat last-place Nautico 4-1.
Cruzeiro lost for the fifth time in 28 matches after conceding an 86th-minute goal against Copa Libertadores champion Atletico Mineiro at the Independencia Stadium.
Forward Fernandinho beat a defender and fired a remarkable left-footed shot into the top corner, helping his team move near the top of the table. Despite the absence of injured Ronaldinho, Atletico Mineiro is fifth in the 20-team standings with 42 points.
Botafogo conceded a 13th-minute goal to Flamengo at the Maracana Stadium but rallied with Gege in the 42nd and Rafael Marques in the 62nd to win its second in a row after a series of poor results. Flamengo, 10th in the standings, hadn't lost in six matches.
Gremio, which has the same 49 points as Botafogo but trails on goals scored, was on its way to victory at the Maracana on Saturday but Fluminense striker Rafael Sobis scored in injury time to equalize the match. Fluminense escaped defeat but remains only 13th in the standings with 35 points, just three out of relegation zone.
Fourth place Atletico Paranaense moved to 48 points by beating Portuguesa 1-0 in Curitiba thanks to a goal less than three minutes into the match.
In the bottom half of the table, Sao Paulo and Corinthians were unable to get on the board in a draw that didn't benefit any of the teams. Sao Paulo was looking for another big win following the upset against leader Cruzeiro, but veteran goalkeeper Ceni had his penalty shot saved by Corinthians goalkeeper Cassio just before the final whistle. The ball hit the post after being deflected.
"I had the responsibility to get it done but couldn't do it," Ceni said. "Cassio just barely tipped it, it was a good play."
Sao Paulo is 15th in the standings with 34 points, two out of relegation zone. Corinthians, winless in three matches, is 11th with 37 points.
Vasco da Gama's fight against relegation got harder after the team's 3-2 loss to Criciuma in Santa Catarina. The traditional Rio de Janeiro club, which had a player sent off in the 61st, is 18th with 32 points, just behind Criciuma. Ponte Preta, which lost 2-1 to Santos at the Vila Belmiro Stadium on Saturday, is below Vasco on the table, ahead of Nautico.
Argentine midfielder Walter Montillo scored one of Santos' goals at the Pacaembu on Saturday, and countryman D'Alessandro helped Internacional beat Nautico by opening the scoring with a remarkable left-footed shot that curled into the top corner. Brazilian World Cup veteran left back Kleber also scored for Inter, which moved to seventh in the standings.
In the second division, eight-time Brazilian champion Palmeiras opened a nine-point point lead atop the standings with a 1-0 win over Guaratingueta on Friday. With nine rounds left, Palmeiras is only a few points from guaranteeing its return to the top flight after demotion last year.
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