Two-time FIFA World Cup™ winner Ronaldo scored twice as Corinthians beat rivals Santos 3-1 in front of a frustrated Pele in the first leg of the Paulista championship final. The 32-year-old Brazilian striker, who missed almost a year of action because of a serious knee injury, is enjoying a new lease on life on home soil. The second leg of the final is on 3 May.
Ronaldo opened his account in the 25th minute when he latched on to a long kick upfield by defender Chicao and scored from the edge of the Santos area at the Vila Belmira, which was Pele's home ground for most of his career. The former Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan forward added his second in the 76th minute when he chipped Fabio Costa from the edge of the penalty area.
"To be king for a day at the home of the king is excellent," purred Ronaldo after taking his tally to eight goals in ten games since his return from last year's career-threatening knee injury.
"The ball landed at the feet of a player who doesn't miss," Pele said. "Ronaldo makes the difference. The second goal was worthy of the World Cup."
Chicao opened the scoring for Corinthians from a free kick on the edge of the area, while Santos's consolation came courtesy of Corinthians goalkeeper Felipe, who turned Triguinho's cross into his own net on the hour.
The Paulista is the largest of the regional championships that kick off the marathon Brazilian season. The tournaments, one for each of Brazil's 27 states, have their own formats and are completely detached from the Brazilian championship which starts in May.
Botafogo and Flamengo drew 2-2 in the first leg of the Carioca final in Rio de Janeiro. The game was marked by a curious incident when Flamengo left back Juan was booked for apparently threatening Maicossuel after being dribbled by the Botafogo player.
Juan opened the scoring from a penalty before Juninho and former Paris Saint-Germain striker Reinaldo put Botafogo ahead. However, Flamengo salvaged a draw when Botafogo's Emerson put through his own goal for the second weekend running.
Elsewhere, Cruzeiro defeated Atletico Mineiro 5-0 in the first leg of the Minas Gerais championship final in Belo Horizonte.