Latin America

Neymar helps Santos top The Strongest

Neymar celebrates after scoring against Bolivia's The Strongest.
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SAO PAULO (AP)

Neymar scored one goal and set up another as defending champion Santos defeated The Strongest of Bolivia 2-0 to top Group 1 of the Copa Libertadores on Thursday.

Fellow Brazilian club Internacional finished second in the group to also advance to the round of 16. Internacional lost 1-0 to Juan Aurich in Peru but it still moved on because of the loss by The Strongest.

Santos finished with 13 points from six matches, five points ahead of Internacional and six in front of The Strongest. Juan Aurich was last with six points.

The top two teams from each of the eight groups advanced to the second round of Latin America's most important club competition.

In the round of 16 it will be; Fluminense vs. Internacional, Corinthians vs. Emelec, Santos vs. Bolivar, Universidad de Chile vs. Deportivo Quito, Libertad vs. Cruz Azul, Velez Sarsfield vs. Atletico Nacional, Lanus vs. Vasco, Union Espanola vs. Boca Juniors.

Santos needed two late goals to get the home win at the Vila Belmiro stadium.

Neymar set up the first with a left-flank cross that led to Alan Kardec's header in the 86th minute, then he fired a low shot from inside the area to seal the victory in the 88th after receiving a pass from striker Borges in front of the Bolivian defenders.

It was Neymar's 11th goal in the Copa Libertadores, giving him a share of third in Santos' list of top scorers in the competition, along with Coutinho. Robinho has 14 goals and Pele 17.

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''We gave it all, we never quit until the end and the goals finally came,'' the 20-year-old Neymar said.

Neymar had one of Santos' best chances from in a breakaway the 60th, entering the area free from any markers but sending his shot wide with only the goalkeeper to beat. He also just missed with a bicycle kick later in the second half.

The Strongest stayed on defense most of the match and barely got near Santos goalkeeper Rafael.

The Bolivian club didn't win points away from the high altitude of La Paz. It had lost 1-0 to Juan Aurich and 5-0 to Internacional. Santos, on the other hand, won all of its matches at home.

The Strongest had beaten Santos in the teams' opening match in this year's Copa Libertadores.

Santos' victory on Thursday guaranteed Internacional advanced despite the loss to last-place Juan Aurich. A victory by The Strongest would have eliminated the two-time Copa Libertadores champion. The Peruvians won with a header by striker Luis Carlos Tejada in the 15th minute.

Internacional finished with the worst campaign among the second-place finishers and now it will have to face fellow Brazilian club Fluminense, which was the best club among all qualifiers.

Also Thursday, Universidad de Chile defeated Atletico Nacional of Colombia 2-1 to finish first in Group 8 with 13 points. Atletico Nacional, which was yet to lose in this year's competition, along with Corinthians, advanced with 11 points. Striker Dorlan Pabon scored Atletico Nacional's lone goal to remain the Copa Libertadores' leading scorer with seven goals.

Penarol of Uruguay beat Godoy Cruz of Argentina 4-2 at home, but both teams had already been eliminated from the competition.

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