Latin America

Cruzeiro, Botafogo retain Brazil lead

Hernane celebrates one of his two goals for Flamengo in a 3-2 win at Fluminense.
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Cruzeiro and Botafogo retained the Brazilian league lead despite disappointing home draws over the weekend.

Cruzeiro was held to a scoreless draw with Santos on Sunday, while Clarence Seedorf's Botafogo drew 1-1 with Goias on Saturday. The teams moved to 25 points from 13 matches, with Cruzeiro ahead on goal difference.

Third-place Coritiba, which lost 1-0 to Vasco da Gama at home on Sunday, is two points behind. Club world champion Corinthians, a 2-0 winner over Vitoria, is four back from the lead.

Defending champion Fluminense is near the bottom of the standings after a 3-2 loss to rival Flamengo at the Maracana, while six-time champion Sao Paulo lost 2-1 at Portuguesa to stay winless in 10 league matches and drop to second-to-last in the 20-team table.

Cruzeiro was looking for its third win in a row but was not able to get a young Santos' team in Belo Horizonte. It dominated most of the match at the Mineirao Stadium but couldn't capitalize on its scoring chances.

The match marked the first time Argentine midfielder Walter Montillo, now with Santos, played against his former team. The playmaker was constantly jeered by Cruzeiro fans.

Santos, 15th in the standings with 14 points, but two games in hand, has drawn two straight matches since being routed 8-0 in a friendly against Barcelona.

Botafogo missed its opportunity to gain sole possession of first place after allowing a second-half equalizer to Goias at the Estadio Nacional in Brasilia. Striker Rafael Marques opened the scoring in the 51st, but defender Andre Bahia found his own net in the 68th while trying to clear a cross into the area.

Seedorf returned to the squad after being rested in the draw against Atletico Mineiro in the team's previous match, but coach Oswaldo OIiveira could not count on striker Nicolas Lodeiro, who was with the Uruguayan national team.

Coritiba, led by former Brazil and Fenerbahce playmaker Alex, could have taken the lead against Vasco da Gama at home, but it was not able to overcome Pedro Ken's goal less than five minutes into the match at the Couto Pereira stadium in Curitiba.

Titleholder Fluminense continued to struggle on Sunday. It got ahead of Flamengo at the Maracana but conceded three unanswered goals in the 3-2 loss to the rival. The team led by coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo has won only once in its last nine matches and is only 14th in the standings.

Flamengo got the win - its second in three matches - with two goals by striker Hernanes and one by midfielder Elias.

Corinthians, Brazil's second-most popular club behind Flamengo, moved into fourth place with the 2-0 win over Vitoria at the Pacaembu stadium in Sao Paulo. Midfielder Ralf scored in the first half and former AC Milan striker Alexandre Pato sealed the victory by converting a penalty kick just after halftime.

Sao Paulo's disappointing run continued after the Brazilian powerhouse conceded a 78th-minute goal in the 2-1 loss to Portuguesa at the Caninde Stadium. Sao Paulo won two in a row to start the tournament but hasn't won since, losing seven of its next 10 matches. Veteran Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni missed a penalty kick when the match was even at 1-1 in the second half.

Gremio moved near the leaders by routing Bahia 3-0 in Salvador with goals by Uruguayan midfielder Maxi Rodriguez, Paraguayan defender Cristian Riveros and Brazilian midfielder Guilherme Biteco. Gremio is seventh in the standings with 19 points.

Ronaldinho's Atletico Mineiro could not get past a 0-0 draw with last-place Nautico on Saturday in Recife, a result that leaves the team winless in five matches since it won the Copa Libertadores for the first time. Atletico has only 12 points from as many matches and is just outside relegation zone.

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