Neymar penalty gives Brazil advantage
GOIANIA, Brazil (AP)
Neymar converted a penalty in the final minute of injury time Wednesday to give Brazil a 2-1 win over Argentina in the first leg of the Superclassic of the Americas, a home-and-away series between the South American rivals with players from local clubs.
Neymar scored from the penalty spot after the referee called a hand ball by an Argentine defender inside the area, helping Brazil coach Mano Menezes escape jeers from the home fans.
As Brazil struggled near the end, the crowd booed Menezes and chanted the name of World Cup-winning manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, who is on the market again after leaving Palmeiras last week. Fans who packed the Serra Dourada stadium chanted ''Goodbye, Mano'' and ''Comeback, Felipao.''
Argentina striker Juan Martinez opened the scoring with a shot from inside the area in the 20th minute and Brazil midfielder Paulinho, apparently offside, equalized with a header off a cross by Neymar in the 27th.
Neymar got the winner by sending a firm shot into the right upper corner after Leandro Desabato pushed Brazil striker Leandro Damiao and touched the ball with his arm inside the area. Argentine players heavily complained the penalty ruling.
The second leg of the series, organized by the South American football federation, will be played on Oct. 3 at the inland city of Resistencia in Argentina.
Brazil won last year's series 2-0 on aggregate. It can secure its second straight title with a draw in Argentina. A victory by the hosts by one goal will prompt a penalty shootout.
''It's going to be a different match,'' Neymar said. ''They played on defense here, but they'll need to attack more at home. We will need to stay calm and take advantages of the counterattacks.''
Brazil controlled possession during most of the match in the central city of Goiania, but Argentina threatened the few times it got near the Brazilian area.
Martinez scored after setting up Clemente Rodriguez on the left side and receiving a pass back inside the area. He then fired a low left-footed shot from near the penalty spot.
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Midfielder Paulinho equalized with a header after a free kick cross by Neymar. Replays showed that Paulinho was ahead of the Argentine defenders when the ball was played.
Paulinho then had a goal correctly disallowed for offside in the 72nd.
''It was tough,'' Paulinho said. ''We knew we would face difficulties, but what matters is that we got the victory.''
Martinez, who plays for Brazilian champion Corinthians, was one of the four Argentines who play in Brazil, along with Hernan Barcos of Palmeiras, Pablo Guinazu of Internacional and Walter Montillo of Cruzeiro.
Argentina played virtually without any starters from the team which is playing in South American qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. Brazil does not have to qualify because it will host the tournament in two years.
Menezes is trying to put together a team for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup, the warm up tournament also to be played in Brazil. The coach revamped the national team when he took over after the 2010 World Cup, replacing veterans Ronaldinho and Kaka by young promising stars such as Neymar, Oscar and Lucas.
Despite a winning record ahead of Brazil, Menezes has been criticized for the team's disappointing results, especially against more traditional opponents. In the team's five matches against Argentina, the coach has managed two draws, one victory and two losses.
Scolari's name made the headlines as a possible replacement to Menezes the moment his contract with Palmeiras was terminated by mutual consent.
Complaints by fans and local media against Menezes increased significantly last month after he failed to lead Brazil to the Olympic gold medal despite being a heavy favorite.
The coach was jeered by fans in Sao Paulo when Brazil struggled in a 1-0 win over South Africa in a friendly two weeks ago, but criticism had eased after Brazil thrashed China 8-0 a few days later.