Santos staged a late rally to beat Goias 2-0 and climb third in the Brasileirao last night, while Internacional beat Botafogo 1-0 to leap above their opponents and into fourth. The two winning teams, along with O Fogão, are now nine points behind leaders Fluminense, who are at home to Sao Paulo later today.
Elsewhere, Vasco and Cruzeiro shared two goals and now sit eighth and sixth respectively, while Ceara remain seventh following a 2-2 draw at home to lowly Gremio Prudente.
Santos began what is expected to be a six-month spell without Ganso, the Brazil playmaker whose knee was operated on earlier in the day, in impressive fashion, and only a brilliant save from Goias keeper Harlei prevented a Keirrison header breaking the deadlock on eight minutes. Dorival Junior’s young side struggled thereafter, however, and the visitors came close to snatching the lead through Bernando’s 50th-minute piledriver.
O Peixe came to life in the last 25 minutes, though, and had a glaring opportunity to break the deadlock when Ze Roberto was upended by Rafael Toloi in the box and a penalty was awarded. Neymar, who scored on his Brazil debut earlier this month, stepped up to take it, but his tame effort was saved by Harlei. It was the third spot-kick the 18-year-old has missed in the Brasileirao - and the fifth in all competitions - this year.
Fortunately for Neymar, his team-mates spared his blushes. Madson, who had looked lively after rising from the bench, sprinted down the right in the 75th minute and crossed for Ze Eduardo to acrobatically volley the ball into the bottom corner. Seven minutes later and Alan Patrick, Santos’s latest teenage revelation, put the result beyond doubt.
“We are fighting for the title,” said coach Dorival afterwards. “We have this ambition.” The 48-year-old also revealed that Neymar will no longer take penalties for the Campeonato Paulista and Copa do Brasil holders.
Internacional were deserved 1-0 winner over Botafogo in Porto Alegre. The recently-crowned Copa Libertadores kings, who will represent South America in December’s FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010, were dominant from the outset and had 12 shots on goal in the first half alone. Eleven failed to find the target, but Leandro Damiao’s scrappy effort proved enough to earn the hosts three points.
“The Brasileiro is a long competition and it’s very difficult, the most difficult in South America,” said Inter’s Argentinian playmaker Andes D’Alessandro. “The Libertadores is over and this marathon of games is not easy. But we’re winning and also playing well.”
Own-goal cancels out wonder goal
The objective for both Vasco and Cruzeiro heading into their meeting at the Sao Januario was to earn a victory that would have improved their hopes of qualifying for next year’s Libertadores. The draw, therefore, suited neither side.
After a largely uneventful first 40 minutes, Vasco playmaker Carlos Alberto did well to pick out Ze Roberto, whose touch deserted him. The latter made an instant amends when he next received possession, however, thumping a 25-yard drive into the top corner of the Cruzeiro net.
The visitors responded deep into first-half stoppage time. Following a scramble in the Vasco box, Thiago Ribeiro’s cross took a wicked deflection off Fernando and rolled into the back of the net.
With Cruzeiro paying significant attention to Carlos Alberto, Vasco were unable to get going in the second period and the game finished all square. It extended the Carioca giants’ undefeated run to ten matches, although their coach was disappointed to have dropped points at home.
“We played with three strikers, we played to win,” said Paulo Cesar Gusmao. "We went in front but we couldn’t hold on to the lead. It wasn’t to be.”