By DAVID MOSSE
The first half of the Brazilian Championship came to a close this weekend with a number of local derbies highlighting the schedule. It’s all part of a strategy to avoid teams fielding second-string lineups in the final round of the competition, and the most fascinating matchup took place on Sunday between Santos and Sao Paulo.
On display were three precocious talents who represent the best hope for Brazil to win the next World Cup in style. Neymar was an ever-present figure throughout the match, but Lucas Moura opened the scoring right before the break by taking off on a spectacular run from midfield and beating two defenders before firing past Rafael.
Sao Paulo squandered several chances to double its lead in the second half, while Santos striker Borges, one of the top scorers in the competition, wasted a glorious opportunity as well. It was left to Paulo Henrique Ganso, just 10 minutes from time, to produce a sensational equalizer with a left-footed blast in the upper corner.
Neymar finished the match by terrorizing Sao Paul right back Ivan Piris with a series of nutmegs, and Rivaldo made a brief substitutes appearance to little effect. The 1-1 draw helped Santos distance itself further from the relegation zone, while Sao Paulo is in third place, just two points behind leaders Corinthians at the halfway point.
Here’s a rundown of all the weekend scores from some of Latin America’s top leagues:
Ronaldinho had a frustrating afternoon, as Vasco da Gama held Flamengo to a scoreless draw in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday. With Corinthians falling to Palmeiras, Wanderley Luxemburgo’s side had a chance to move into first place, but remains one point back. Vasco is fourth in the table and has lost only once in 11 league matches.
Gremio distanced itself from the relegation zone with a satisfying win over archrivals Internacional on Sunday. Marquinhos gave Celso Roth’s side the lead early in the first half, only for Indio to equalize soon after. The winner came courtesy of Douglas from the penalty spot, as Internacional suffered its first defeat in five games.
Coritiba 1, Atletico Paranaense 1
Fluminense 1, Botafogo 2
America Minais Gerais 1, Atletico Goianiense 2
Palmeiras 2, Corinthians 1
Ceara 3, Bahia 0
Atletico Mineiro 1, Cruzeiro 2
Figueirense 2, Avai 3
Boca Juniors is no longer in first place in the Apertura Championship after being held to a 1-1 draw by San Lorenzo on Sunday. Gabriel Mendez opened the scoring for the visitors with a sensational free kick midway through the first half, but Dario Cvitanich equalized early in the second half. Julio Falcioni’s side is unbeaten in four games.
Estudiantes threw away a two-goal advantage against San Martin on Friday, and is still winless after four rounds of the Apertura Championship. Gaston Fernandez and Mauro Boselli found the back of the net for Miguel Angel Russo’s side, but Emanuel Mas pulled one back before the break, and Nunez equalized in the second half.
Deportivo Godoy Cruz 1, Atletico Banfield 0
Racing Club 0, Arsenal Sarandi 0
Lanus 0, Tigre 0
Atletico Rafaela 3, Olimpo 1
Velez Sarsfield 0, CA All Boys 1
Atletico Colon 0, Union 2
Belgrano 2, Newell’s Old Boys 3
Argentinos Juniors 0, Independiente 0
Chivas Guadalajara suffered its first defeat in this Apertura campaign, falling 2-0 to San Luis on Saturday. Michael Arroyo and Macnelly Torres were the goal-scorers, taking advantage of defensive mistakes on the part of Jose Luis Real’s side, which actually dominated most of the match. San Luis has won three of its last four games.
Cruz Azul surged into first place in the Apertura standings with a 2-1 victory away to Pumas UNAM on Sunday. Gerardo Flores gave the visitors the lead before Martin Bravo notched an equalizer. The winner came courtesy of Adrian Cortes later on, sealing the second straight defeat and fourth match without a win for Los Auriazules.
Jaguares 1, Toluca 1
Monterrey 2, Santos Laguna 0
Pachuca 2, Club America 0
Futbol Club Atlas 0, Tigres UNAL 1
Atlante 2, Estudiantes 1
Tijuana 1, Queretaro 1
Morelia 0, Puebla FC 0
What did you think of this week’s results? Excited by the Santos-Sao Paulo match? Is Cruz Azul the top team in Mexico?